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By Chioma Obinna

As Nigeria Monday joined the world to mark the 2022 World Malaria Day, pharmacists under the auspices of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, ACPN, have called for concerted and prompt actions as well as close collaboration with the government and the communities to end the malaria scourge in the country.

In a press statement signed by its National Chairman, Pharm. Adewale Oladigbolu.

Oladigbolu, Who spoke on the theme of this year’s celebration “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives”, stressed the need for investments and innovation that will bring new vector control approaches, diagnostics, antimalarial medicines and other tools to speed the pace of progress against malaria.

Quoting the Message from WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti on the commemoration of this year’s World Malaria Day, he said the past year has seen significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to WHO, “Landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria – RTS, S – were released by the World Health Organization late last year. This vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings.

“While this is a groundbreaking advance in the development of new tools to fight this disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited. As such, it is important to ensure that the available doses are utilized for maximum impact while ensuring the continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.

The number one community pharmacist in the country noted that Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge.

Still quoting the WHO report on 2022 WMD, he said: “The global health body added that In the last year, about 95 per cent of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region, along with 602,020 reported deaths. Six countries, the worst impacted by malaria in the Africa Region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55 per cent of cases globally, and 50 per cent of these deaths.

Oladigbolu, however, disclosed that In Lagos State, malaria accounts for more than 70 per cent of outpatient in the public health facilities. “More than 700,000 malaria cases are reported annually. 657,154 patients with malaria were seen in both private and public health facilities in 2020. Malaria is prevalent in the vulnerable groups – children under 5 years and pregnant women where the infection can be profoundly more severe.

“It is, therefore, germane that we need to take action. By taking action, we would be curbing the spread of the disease. We must prevent inside Long–Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs). This is particularly important for the vulnerable groups –pregnant women and children under 5 years old. Pregnant women are also encouraged to take Sulphadoxine Pyimethamine to prevent malaria in pregnancy from the 2nd trimester.”

Before using Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACTs) for the treatment of fever, diagnosis either using a malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test (mRDT) kit or a microscope must be done. This is because not all fevers are caused by malaria. Diagnosis of patients with fever using microscopy or an MDT kit before treatment of the disease improves the overall management of patients with fever. 

Thus, testing for malaria is essential as it helps to reduce the unnecessary use of antimalarial drugs thereby preventing the emergence and spread of drug resistance and ensuring that antimalarial drugs are reserved for those suffering from the disease. It is also imperative that all malaria cases diagnosed are recorded in the appropriate data tools to ensure that all cases of malaria in the State are duly reported.

Emphasis on collective action is also placed on environmental management which includes effective refuse disposal and waste management, covering of water storage containers, clearing of gutters, and dredging of canals and channels among others.

Unkempt and dirty environments serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes; hence proper maintenance and management of the environment would prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

However, as an association and as healthcare providers closest to the people, we remain fully committed to the fight against malaria, and we believe we can overcome the challenge if we collaborate closely with governments, partners and communities.

Also, we at ACPN are reiterating that the important place and responsibility of the community pharmacists cannot be overemphasised, given the pivotal role they play in health care delivery services in the country, as medicines are very essential to life, whether or not the individual is well.

Medicines are crucial to human existence; so, if not properly handled and advice and counselling are not properly given, strictly followed or adhered to, medicines can become very dangerous, if not lethal, when handled by the wrong people or in the wrong way. Lives have been terminated through the wrong use of drugs, while medical conditions can also be made worse through the inappropriate use of medicines. And this is where the community pharmacist comes in.

ACPN has been at the vanguard of advocacy aimed at controlling the spread of malaria for quite some time. Over the years, the Association has marked World Malaria Day with pomp and pageantry.

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