‘Rapid Diagnostic Test Is Critical To Effective Malaria Treatment’

Chioma Umeha

The National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) has advised Nigerians to stop self-medication and go for Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for proper malarial testing, dismissing reports that Lagos was malaria-free.
Dr Audu Mohammed, the National Coordinator, NMEP, made the call at the Integrated Health Parley organised by Breakthrough Action-Nigeria in collaboration with the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) in Lagos, insisting that RDT is the way to effective Malaria treatment.
Represented by Mr. Chukwu Okoronkwo, the Head, Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilisation, the NMEP boss also called for more donor agencies and increased domestic financing to drive malaria elimination in the country even as North West leads in malaria burden.
He maintained that adequate funding was needed to achieve malaria-free Nigeria.
Mohammed further announced that the burden of malaria remains a public health concern, but lamented that the country is largely donor-dependent.
He said; “Quite a lot of donor partners are supporting malaria elimination in the country, but in spite of their fund support, we still have huge gap which is why malaria is still endemic in Nigeria.
“We are appealing to more donor agencies to come in and government at all levels should increase their funding for malaria elimination,” he added.
Mohammed said that the prevalence of malaria in Nigeria is 27 per cent and there are variations of endemicity across geopolitical zones going by the 2015 Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS).
“The World Malaria Report of 2017 indicates that Nigeria contributes 27 per cent of the 216 million malaria cases and 24 per cent of the 445,000 malaria deaths.
“About three out of 10 persons having malaria in the world live in Nigeria; one out of four deaths from malaria globally occur in Nigeria and over 54 million malaria cases recorded annually for the last three years. We also have prevalence across zones in the country according to 2015 National Malaria Indicator Survey.”
According to the 2015 National Malaria Indicator Survey, the North West leads in high burden of malaria with 37 percent while the South East recorded lowest prevalence of 14 percent. Other regions recorded; North Central- 32 per cent, North East -26 per cent, South-South- 19 per cent, South West 17 per cent and South East 14 per cent.
However, Mohammed noted that increased funding for malaria elimination would provide equitable, comprehensive, cost effective, efficient and quality malaria control services.
On her part, Itohowo Uko, Deputy Director, National Tuberculosis, Burulli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) decried the rising proportions of tuberculosis occurrence in Nigeria’s communities which are hardly reported to the authorities.
Uko said this, while elaborating on the burden of TB in the country.
According to her, Nigeria is classified among the 14 countries with burden of TB.
Uko also pointed out that TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
“Tuberculosis otherwise known as TB,” she explained, “is an infectious disease caused by the germ Mycobacterium Tuberculosis that affects the lungs mainly but may affect any other parts of the body.” 
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) 2017 Global Report, it is estimated that two out of every 1000 Nigerians will have TB, Uko stated.
Despite the enormity of burden of TB in Nigeria, Uko assured that the disease is completely curable if detected and treated early.
“The drugs and diagnostic tests are free of charge in Nigeria,” she stressed, adding that there is urgent need to increase early TB case finding, notification and treatment.
Low TB case findings, low TB treatment coverage, low awareness on TB and TB services among the general population, dwindling donor funding, and inadequate government funding at all levels, the FMoH official corroborated, are the challenges faced by NTBLCP in tackling the burden of TB in Nigeria.
Commenting, Dr Bolatito Aiyenigba, Deputy Director, Malaria and Tuberculosis Project, Breakthrough Action-Nigeria, said that the project was focused on integrated social health behaviour of Nigerians. Aiyenigba tasked the media to write stories and feature articles to provide adequate information to all Nigerians such that at least 80 per cent of the populace habitually takes appropriate malaria preventive and treatment actions.