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UNICEF says malaria still number-one killer of children under five in Nigeria

ABUJA, 25 April 2010—As the world commemorates the World Malaria Day, UNICEF says that malaria is still the number-one killer of children in Nigeria, but believes, along with its Government and Roll Back Malaria partners, that the deaths of thousands of children under five years old here every year could be prevented by simple cost-effective measures including consistent use of long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets by families and anti-malaria treatment for pregnant women.

Malaria remains a major public health problem in Nigeria. An estimated 300,000 children die of the disease each year, and up to 11% of maternal mortality is caused by it. Malaria remains a major public health problem in Nigeria. An estimated 300,000 children die of the disease each year, and up to 11% of maternal mortality is caused by it—which represents one in every four deaths of children and one in ten deaths of pregnant women. It is estimated that about half the population of Nigeria adults suffer from at least one episode of malaria annually while children under five years have as many as three or four episodes every year. 

There are nearly 110 million clinically diagnosed cases of malaria here annually, accounting for 60% of outpatient visits and 30% of hospitalizations. It is not difficult to see that in addition to its direct health impact, the disease imposes a heavy social and economic burden: indeed, about N132 billion (about $900 million) are lost to malaria annually in prevention and treatment costs and productivity loss.

Nigeria has deployed its National Malaria Control Programme and the resources of its Roll Back Malaria partners—including UNICEF—to reduce the malaria burden by half by the end of 2010. One of its strategies is to distribute 63 million long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets, known as LLINs, to 32 million households in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The campaign is the largest distribution of LLINs in the world.

Eleven states have already received 19 million nets in a first phase and about 46 million more nets will be distributed by the end of this year. UNICEF will distribute a total of 6.5 million nets itself.

The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Suomi Sakai, hopes that this massive distribution of LLINs will be followed by sustained social mobilization across the country to make sure that families actually use the nets—every night. “The distribution of so many nets to so many households will be a monumental achievement. The next challenge will be to convince families to use those nets, otherwise the effort will not translate in the reduction of childhood and maternal deaths due to malaria,” she said.

UNICEF is working closely with its Roll Back Malaria partners to support Nigeria’s effort to expand access to
other interventions that are key to reducing malaria deaths. The goal is to ensure that 80% of persons suffering from malaria have access to effective and affordable treatment within 24 hours of a malaria attack, and that at least 80% of pregnant women at risk of malaria, especially those in their first pregnancies, have access to intermittent preventive treatment .

You can take matters into your own hands: make sure everyone in your household has an LLIN to sleep under—and sleeps under it every night. Dr. Naawa Sipilanyambe, Chief of UNICEF’s Health and Nutrition programme in Nigeria, says, “You can take matters into your own hands: make sure everyone in your household has an LLIN to sleep under—and sleeps under it every night—and encourage all the pregnant women you know to seek antenatal care and ask about anti-malaria treatment. You might help save a life.” 


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