Entertainment icon Kate Henshaw has enlisted in the battle to raise awareness about the deadly consequences of malaria and pledged to join advocacy efforts.
Henshaw made the commitment Thursday, October 6, 2016 at a gathering of health editors with the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the Society for Family Health. The event held at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja.
She spoke as the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the Society for Family Health declared a war to raise awareness in the fight against malaria with a 2020 target date for eliminating up to 80% of current cases. The programme is under the Global Fund for Malaria New Funding Model.
Henshaw decried the continued harm malaria causes in Nigerian homes as well as the ignorance and misinformation about fevers. She lamented the fact that citizens underplay malaria or describe it in endearing terms. Growing up, she recalls, “In those days, people spoke about malaria as if it belonged to them with expressions like ‘I have malaria,’ ‘my malaria’ and ‘ordinary malaria.’ Surprisingly, after many years, these terms are still common place among family members, colleagues, and friends, irrespective of class or level of education.”
The actress and TV personality urged concerted action to create awareness. She affirmed, “The starting point for behaviour change is the right knowledge. Poor education should not be a barrier in this 21st century when we have access to television, radio, internet, etc. It is time for the media to take up the challenge of creating malaria-based programs to promote malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment for a malaria-free Nigeria by 2020.
These programs will help debunk several malaria-related myths such as ‘malaria is caused by standing in the sun, eating oily meals, witchcraft, working for too long, bad water, bad air and much more. It is time for you -every media personnel and individual- seated here to take action against malaria.”
Kate Henshaw declared, “I have committed myself to support the fight against malaria in Nigeria by letting people know the benefits of sleeping inside the Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets, especially for children under 5 and pregnant women. It is also very important to have a Rapid Diagnostic Test done or microscopy done to be sure it is malaria before administering treatment with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy – (ACT).”
She charged the media to lead the fight against the disease. “I implore the media to let Nigerians know that not all fevers are malaria; let Nigerians know that people are dying from malaria when malaria is a preventable and treatable illness; let Nigerians know that testing using RDT to confirm malaria before treatment is the way to go. The best medicine for malaria treatment is Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies – what we know as (ACTs). It is very affordable and accessible.”
Statistics gathered by public health NGO The Society for Family Health show that malaria inflicts high costs on Nigeria. Out of pocket treatment and prevention costs as much as US$3billion dollars annually. Malaria causes absenteeism in schools, offices and markets with effects on the economy. Malaria also accounts for 11% of maternal mortality and three in 10 deaths of children less than five years old.