Nigeria: Together we can fight the scourge of Malaria
Abuja/Nigeria, April 25, 2008 - World Malaria Day this year in Nigeria took a new and different dimension. The novel feature is the introduction of a “Malaria torch”. Although the theme of this first World Malaria Day is "Malaria, a disease without boarders" with the slogan: "Fight malaria, invest in the future”, the “Malaria torch” that was received by the Nigerian Minister of Health, Dr. Hassan Lawal today seem to symbolize that working together in synergy would help conquer the scourge of malaria. The torch had traveled through several states of the country, crossing many state borders to symbolize the ubiquity of the disease and finally arrived the Federal capital territory today where a week-long activity to commemorate the first World Malaria Day was concluded with a rally. Other activities of the day included a football match and an educational drama involving a constructed model of mosquito.
This is the first World Malaria Day (WMD). But April 25 of every year was designated Africa Malaria Day following the Abuja-Nigeria Summit on Roll Back Malaria on April 25, 2000. At that summit African Heads of State, among other things, resolved that by 2005 at least 60% each of correct and prompt treatment, of children under five and pregnant sleeping under Insecticide Treated Nets, and pregnant women receiving intermittent preventive treatment (IPT). Subsequently, that date was set aside for the commemoration of this event and to monitor progress made towards attainment of the targets. The momentum created by the summit, the declarations and the global urgency to mitigate the scourge of malaria led to a re-designation of the day as World Malaria Day (WMD).
Malaria is a serious health problem. It affects between 300 to 500 million people annually with more than 1 million deaths. It affects mostly young children under the age of five and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa resulting in death rate of nearly 3,000 every day. In Africa malaria causes approximately 20% of all child deaths and in Nigeria over 400,000 children die annually due to this preventable disease.
Since that declaration in 2000 effort to control malaria has led to the distribution of 15 million insecticide treated nets covering 6 million households in Nigeria out of about 28 million households. This means that children and pregnant women living in 22 million households are still vulnerable to the scourge of malaria.
In the last ten years, UNICEF has been part of both the Global and country level Roll Back Malaria Initiative including Nigeria. UNICEF supported the first African Summit on Roll Back Malaria, which took place in April 2000 in Abuja, Nigeria.
While receiving the malaria torch the Minister noted that local actions were necessary if we have to win this fight against malaria. He appreciated the support given by the International development partners including UNICEF through the Roll Back Malaria Initiative partnership but called for simple acts of environmental sanitation and the use of Insecticide treated by the people.
The government of Nigeria with the support of Development partners has set aside about $1.3 billion to fight malaria in the next three years. This step is in consonance with the theme of today, to fight malaria and invest in the future.