Partnering to roll back malaria in Nigeria's Bauchi State
For World Malaria Day, 25 April, UNICEF and its partners are highlighting successes but calling for greater efforts to eradicate the deadly disease. Here is a related story.
BAUCHI, Nigeria, 22 April 2009 – In Nigeria, malaria causes the deaths of an estimated 250,000 children under the age of five every year. On any given afternoon, the waiting halls at the Specialist Hospital – the biggest in Bauchi State – are full by early morning. If any of these children have acute malaria, they may die in 24 hours without prompt access to effective treatment.
“Sixty per cent of the deaths in this hospital, especially those of children, are caused by malaria,” says hospital paediatrician Dr. Shola. Out of 525 deaths resulting from malaria at the Specialist Hospital this year, the doctor adds, about 65 have been children under five.
'Activity and momentum'
Malaria is responsible for about 66 per cent of all clinic visits in Nigeria. Health workers are sometimes forced to work overtime, and doctors and nurses can be on duty for over 12 hours a day. Still, women and children have to wait for hours before receiving medical consultation.
"There is a lot of activity and momentum to combat malaria in Nigeria, but deadly gaps still exist. More needs to be done to prevent children from being infected and ensure access to quality malaria treatment,” says UNICEF Representative in Nigeria Suomi Sakai.
Empowering families and communities through participation – while improving their knowledge about how to prevent, recognize and treat malaria – is an important part of UNICEF’s malaria prevention work. Community workers try to sensitize the local population about preventing malaria through the use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) or treating it with artemisinin–based combination therapy (ACT).
However, even when people have been educated about malaria, poverty often stops them from seeking treatment. “Most can’t afford the ITNs or the ACT, which cures malaria,” says Maryam Hashim of the Wandi Primary Health Clinic.
Roll Back Malaria partnership
In 1998, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank came together in the Roll Back Malaria partnership, with the goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010.
UNICEF, working closely with its Roll Back Malaria partners, supports this effort by supplying safe, effective and affordable anti-malaria interventions. The organization is, for example, the world’s largest purchaser of mosquito nets. UNICEF also supports the provision of intermittent preventive treatment (ITP) for pregnant women through antenatal clinics.
ITP, which can prevent a child from contracting malaria before birth, involves providing pregnant women with at least two doses of an anti-malarial drug at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Such preventive treatment has been shown to substantially reduce the risk of anaemia in the mother and low birth weight in the newborn. In the Urban Maternity Clinic in Bauchi, women can access this treatment for free.
One of the objectives of Roll Back Malaria is to reduce malaria-related morbidity and mortality by 50 per cent in Nigeria by 2010, as well as to minimize the socio-economic impact of the disease.