Nigerians treat malaria through self-medication

By: Chioma Umeha

A recent weekly poll showed that 51 per cent Nigerians treat malaria through self-medication. According to the poll released by NOI Polls Limited, weekend, 44 per cent of Nigerians visit the hospital to see a doctor when they have malaria, 38 per cent simply buy medicine from the pharmacy or chemist, while 13 per cent make use of native herbs such as, Dogonyaro, Agbo, Neem leaves and Lemon grass.  The remaining four per cent do not use any medicine.

The poll also showed that seven out of 10 Nigerians (66 per cent) have had malaria at least once in the last one year. It further stated that women are more likely to visit the hospital than men. This is because majority of Nigerian men simply visit the pharmacy to buy malaria medicines or opt for native herbs more than women, the survey showed. As the survey puts it, “almost seven in 10 Nigerians (66 per cent) have had malaria at least once in the past year, and about 13 per cent treat the ailment with the use of local herbs such as Agbo, Dogonyaro, Neem leaves etc.”

The survey pointed out that 90 per cent of Nigerians identified HIV/AIDS as a critical health challenge in the country and suggested better media and sensitization programmes to increase awareness of the disease.
The result of the survey, which was published by 3ra’fique is an independent marketing communications organization based in Lagos, also stated that there were three key findings from the HIV/AIDS and malaria snap poll conducted in the first week of April, the third in the NOI polls MDG (Millennium Development Goals) series.Respondents to the poll were asked six questions. The first question was to establish the frequency of malaria infection over the past one year. Respondents were asked: In the past 12 months, how many times have you had malaria? According to the results majority of respondents (66 per cent) said they have been infected with malaria at least once over the past one year while 34 per cent said they have not had malaria within the same period.

Further analysis by geo-political zones showed that malaria is more prevalent in the South than in the North. Majority of the residents in the Northern regions; North-Central (43 per cent) North-East (38 per cent) and North-West (38 per cent)) have not had malaria since the last one year; while the Southern regions; South-South (77 per cent), South-East (75 per cent) and South-West (64 per cent) have the largest percentage of respondents who have had malaria more than once within the period.  This disparity between geo-political zones is perhaps due to the greater presence of rivers, seas and lakes in the South where mosquitoes are prevalent; while the North is mostly dry savanna and desert in vegetation, the survey said.

The second question was: How do you treat malaria when you have it?  Responses showed that the majority (44 per cent) of the respondents visit the hospital to see a doctor when they have malaria. However, 38 per cent simply buy medicine from the pharmacy or chemist, even as 13 per cent make use of native herbs such as Dogonyaro, Agbo, Neem leaves and lemon grass with the rest, four per cent not using any medicine. The result based on regions showed that majority of the residents in the Southern regions use self-medication unlike the Northern regions that go to the hospital.  Also, it showed that the  North-West has the highest proportion (71 per cent) that claim to visit the hospital, while the South-East has the highest proportion (52 per cent) that simply buy malaria medicine from the pharmacy even as the South-West has the highest proportion (19 per cent) that use native herbs.

The third question was: how do people get HIV/AIDS? The response showed  that majority of Nigerians (86 per cent) believe that HIV/AIDS can be contracted through sexual intercourse; while 64 per cent are of the view that it can be contracted through the sharing of sharp objects. A further 41 per cent mentioned blood transfusion; with others stating that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through mosquito bites (one per cent) and through deep kissing (three per cent).

The fourth question bordered on the assertion of international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) which identified HIV/AIDS as a critical health challenge in the country today. Majority (90 per cent) agreed with the assertion. Based on geo-political zones, the South-South has the highest proportion (55 per cent) of those that strongly agreed with the assertion; while the South-East has the highest percentage that agreed (68 per cent). Bemoaning the menace of malaria in Africa, the survey observed that basically everyone on the continent has been affected by the pandemic. The deadly scourge claims the life of a child every minute and kills 655,000 people yearly (out of which 86 per cent are children). Research has proved that the disease can kill within 24 hours of symptom onset, even as it accounts for 40 per cent of all public health spending in the continent.

It decreases the gross domestic product (GDP) of some high-burden countries by over one per cent. For instance, Africa loses $12 to $30 billion in GDP yearly. According to this year’s report from the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2013) malaria traps families and communities in a downward spiral of insufficiency; disproportionately affecting marginalized and poor people who cannot afford treatment or who have limited access to health care. Insisting that poverty is critical to the malaria scourge in the country and continent as a whole, 3ra’fique, the publishers of the survey, said it has decided to use football which is a celebrated form of sports across the world as a tool of awareness struggle to eliminate malaria scourge.
“Malaria is both a cause and consequence of poverty. Football on the other hand is the most popular sport in the world. The command of the sport fashions an endless stage that provides a vantage point for upholding health awareness fights; for example, using it as a tool in disarming this ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’ called Malaria,” the  survey quoting the latest WHO’s report noted.

Therefore, 3ra’fique plans to leverage on soccer by engaging a cast of Nigerian Comedians (Team Comedians) and On-Air Personalities (Team OAPs) of radio and television stations to commemorate World Malaria Day (WMD) on April 27, 2013. The football match will draw a great gathering to witness influential individuals of our society as they use football to create an avenue in advocating for sustainable solutions to rid Africa of Malaria. According to Irabor Okosun, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) 3ra’fique Communications,  ‘Join the Cast’ Football Match, the purpose is to use this pool to deliver malaria prevention messages to create mobilization within communities against the disease.

“Defeating malaria requires a comprehensive approach and the technique to curtail it will be essentially collaborative and communicative. Football-based prevention programmes like the ‘Join the Cast’ Football match will employ the competitive, participatory, team-based, and communicative aspects of the game to facilitate both knowledge acquisition and the development of communication, leadership and life skills; such as risk awareness, resilience, self-efficacy, good decision making, and positive behaviours like mutual support and respect,” Okosun said.

At the venue, there will be free mobile platforms for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) on how to properly treat and prevent malaria as well as treat people who have malaria.
Also, there will be distribution of relevant give-away items such as treated bed nets, insecticides, coils, electronic racquets, Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as flyers, pamphlets and other educative materials fortified with useful information about malaria prevention and treatment.
The benefits and expected outcomes are: saving lives through candid awareness about malaria prevention and treatment; positive brand equity positioning for your brand by engaging in a productive CSR; a robust and holistic form of media exposure for your brand; international coverage and opportunity to network.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on April 24, 2013.


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