By Gabriel Olawale
World Health Organisation, WHO has said that about 3.7 million people are at risk for malaria in Borno State if quick humanitarian assistance failed to come.
UN agency estimated that every week, around 8,500 people are infected with disease and predicted likely increase in the figure in the next few months.
The Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, Dr Pedro Alonso said that following more than eight years of conflict in Borno, half of deaths recorded are currently due to malaria, more than all other causes of death combined, including cholera, measles and hepatitis E.
A highly vulnerable population, consisting largely of children (58.8 per cent), is at risk of disease outbreaks.
“With more than 60 per cent of health facilities only partially functioning, many people have not had access to regular health services, including routine vaccinations and basic medicines, for years. In addition to security concerns, acute malnutrition caused by food insecurity is rising in parts of the state.
Between malnutrition and death is virtually always disease, and malaria often turns cases of malnourishment deadly.
Alonso explained that wherever there are humanitarian crisis in a malaria endemic country, one can be sure that malaria is the number one killer.
“Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
“Increased efforts over the last 15 years have drastically reduced malaria deaths and cases – malaria mortality rates dropped by more than 60 per cent, averting six million deaths.
“The most effective way to reduce deaths in emergencies in fragile states, especially those facing malnutrition, is by boosting malaria prevention and control, however, this is often not viewed as the top priority during an emergency response,” says Alonso.
He explained that WHO and health sector partners strengthening surveillance systems to monitor cases and outbreaks of malaria; increasing people’s access to care in clinics and to health facilities; spraying insecticides and distributing bed nets as part of vector control; and administering malaria drugs to children under 5 every month.
“Like never before, WHO is on the frontlines in camps of displaced people delivering real health programmes helping people in a complex emergency. Seeing the translation of our work into action is phenomenally rewarding.”