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Malaria control can save 10,000 lives in Nigeria – WHO

By Haruna Gimba

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that if targeted steps towards malaria prevention and control are taken, 10, 000 lives of Nigerians can be save by November 2017.

Director of WHO Global Malaria Programme, Mr Pedro Alonso, said the agency and its partners were strengthening surveillance systems to monitor cases and outbreaks of malaria in Borno state.

Mr Alonso said they were also increasing access to care in health facilities, spraying insecticides and distributing bed nets as part of vector control, adding that WHO and its partners are administering malaria drugs to children under five every month from July to October.

Mr Pedro Alonso

He said WHO malaria experts commissioned a modelling exercise that concluded that joint actions could prevent up to 10,000 deaths in Borno state alone.

Health Reporters gathered that in July, the first of four monthly rounds of mass drug administration reached more than 880,000 of the 1.1 million under-age-five children targeted. According to the WHO, 8,500 people are infected weekly with 3.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Alonso said: “The most effective way to reduce deaths in emergencies, 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. We are working with our WHO colleagues and many partners to change this.”

WHO estimates that over half of recorded deaths there are due to malaria, comprising more than all other diseases combined, including cholera, measles and hepatitis E. While the vulnerable population, consisting of 58.8 per cent children, stands at risk of disease outbreaks.

“WHO hopes for $2.5 million to mobilize the emergency intervention and is relying on the existing polio vaccinator infrastructure to carry out the operation, which faces Boko Haram security threats.

“We will give one curative dose of antimalarial drugs to a defined population, in this case children under-five. In Borno state, we are giving an antimalarial drug to a child, whether they have malaria infection or not, to ensure they are cleared of parasites at that point and to protect them for four weeks,” he added.

WHO representative in Nigeria, Wondi Alemu was quoted as saying: “We will not know the full impact of our efforts until November. But we are confident that taking these steps will go a long way in reducing deaths and suffering.”

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