Editorial

April 26, 2024

Recharging the fight against Malaria

World Malaria Day

Malaria, a deadly disease whose vector is the insect called mosquito, continues to pose a significant threat to global health. This is why the United Nations, through the World Health Organisation, WHO, celebrates World Malaria Day every year on April 25. The international community has made the fight against malaria a universal undertaking due to the devastating impact of the disease on human lives and socio-economic development.

Malaria is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of the disease is highest. In addition to Africa, parts of South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Americas also experience a significant number of malaria cases.

The impact of malaria on development cannot be overstated. It disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations, including children under five and pregnant women. Malaria-related illnesses and deaths contribute to reduced productivity, increased healthcare costs, and hinder economic growth in affected regions. Eradicating malaria is crucial for promoting equality as it can eliminate the disproportionate burdens faced by marginalised communities. 

Significant progress has been made in the development of malaria vaccines. The most advanced vaccine to date is RTS,S a protein-based inoculant which has shown promising results in clinical trials. The other variant is the R21/Matrix M. While they are not yet fully effective, they provide partial protection against the most severe forms of the disease in young children. Continued research and investment in vaccine development are essential to further advance malaria prevention and control strategies.

Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest malaria burden. In 2020, Nigeria came second only to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, with 21.6 million cases, compared to the former’s 24.9 million. Nigeria and other African countries which are endemic to malaria can take several steps to improve their fight against the disease.

Strengthening the healthcare system and increasing access to quality diagnosis and treatment services are crucial. These involve training healthcare workers, improving infrastructure, and ensuring the availability of affordable and effective anti-malarial drugs. Furthermore, promoting community engagement and awareness is vital.

Educating the public about malaria prevention measures, such as the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and early diagnosis and treatment, can significantly reduce the transmission of the disease.

To effectively combat malaria, collaborative efforts are needed at global, regional and national levels. These include cooperation between governments, international organisations, research institutions, and communities. Sharing best practices, resources, and expertise can lead to more effective prevention and control strategies, as well as accelerate the development of new tools and interventions.

To significantly reduce malaria, especially in congested population areas, government must get the people to play their part in cleaning drainage channels to deny mosquitoes breeding grounds. More efforts should also be made to integrate orthodox and traditional remedies for the prevention and cure of malaria.