Dr. Kolawole Maxwell Urges Unified Action Against Nigeria’s Malaria Crisis

In a poignant call to arms, Dr. Kolawole Maxwell, a leading authority on malaria and the Chairman of the malaria Technical Working Group (mTWG) for National Malaria Elimination Programme has issued a fervent plea for collaborative efforts to combat Nigeria’s malaria epidemic. Speaking during a special Facebook live session marking World Malaria Day 2024, Dr. Maxwell underscored the gravity of Nigeria’s status as the global epicenter of malaria, urging all stakeholders to join forces in stemming the tide of this deadly disease.

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Dr. Kolawole Maxwell Urges Unified Action Against Nigeria’s Malaria Crisis

With unwavering resolve, Dr. Kolawole Maxwell shed light on the insidious nature of malaria, emphasizing its devastating impact on public health. Caused by the Plasmodium parasite and transmitted through mosquito bites, malaria manifests through symptoms such as fever, body pains, vomiting, and high temperatures, particularly afflicting vulnerable demographics like children under five and pregnant women.

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Drawing attention to the importance of malaria diagnosis through the malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test (mRDT) or Microscopy test for malaria detection, Dr. Kolawole Maxwell sounded a cautionary note against the dangers of self-medication, which often exacerbate the severity of malaria cases. Citing alarming statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), he highlighted Nigeria’s staggering malaria burden, comprising 27% of global cases with millions affected and thousands succumbing to the disease annually.

In a testament to the power of partnership, Dr. Kolawole Maxwell underscored the collaborative efforts between the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partners and the Nigerian Government in bolstering the nation’s response to malaria. Through financial and technical support, evidence-based interventions, and community engagement initiatives, the RBM Partners are at the forefront of the fight against malaria, advocating for rigorous diagnosis and prompt treatment at healthcare facilities nationwide.

With a rallying cry of “Let’s change the narrative now!” which is the National slogan for the 2024 world malaria day commemoration, Dr. Maxwell implored Nigerians to prioritize health-seeking behaviors, including medication adherence, proper use of mosquito nets, and maintenance of hygienic living environments. Recognizing the pivotal role of government leadership, Dr. Maxwell affirmed the need for sustained commitment to national malaria programs, underpinned by a holistic approach encompassing global, national, and grassroots interventions.

As Dr. Kolawole Maxwell’s impassioned call reverberates across Nigeria, it serves as a clarion call for unity and collective action in the fight against malaria. With such leadership and expertise guiding the way, there is hope that Nigeria can overcome its malaria crisis and pave the path towards a healthier, malaria-free future for all.

In same vein, the National Malaria Elimination Programme held a one hour Tweet and Instagram chats via its official handles to sensitize Nigerians about malaria.

During the chat, the most common myths and misconceptions around Malaria in Nigeria were identified as working or playing in the sun, fatigue and stress, witchcraft/ excessive use of red oil, taking Herbal Mixtures/Alcoholic drinks, taking nothing at all because malaria subsides after a while, Malaria never leads to death or disability.

Malaria was explained as a disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium which is transmitted from an infected person to others through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito

The common symptoms of Malaria and how it spreads as disclosed in the cause of the chats were fever, chills, headache, fatigue. Malaria is spread from an infected person to others through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito

Speaking on the current burden of malaria in Nigeria, how Nigeria is currently affected by Malaria and who the most affected or vulnerable people are, it was stated that 1 out of 4 persons having malaria in the world live in Nigeria, 1 out of 3 deaths from malaria globally occur in Nigeria, about 22 persons die EVERY HOUR from malaria-related issues in Nigeria, nearly 66 million malaria cases occur in Nigeria annually and Pregnant women and children under 5 years are the most vulnerable.

Participants during these live chats were informed that maintaining a clean environment, getting rid of all mosquito breeding sites,
ensuring every member of a household sleeps inside an Insecticide treated net (ITN) every night, insisting pregnant women register for antenatal care early to receive SP that protects mother and unborn baby from malaria and presenting eligible children to be administered malaria prevention therapies as recommended as ways of preventing malaria

It was further revealed that fever can only be confirmed to be malaria through test with the
malaria rapid diagnostic tests (mRDT) or Microscopy.

The National Malaria Elimination Programme through these avenues reiterated that all confirmed cases of malaria can be treated and totally cured when the right medicine i.e. Artimisimin based combination therapy (ACT) is taken correctly as prescribed.

The major challenges globally in the fight against Malaria as discussed during the chats were the widening of the funding gap for implementation of required malaria interventions, sub-optimal uptake of interventions especially among the most vulnerable groups (children and pregnant women), weakening health systems that should deliver effective and equitable PHC interventions, increasing resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides used currently in ITNs and growing documented resistance of malaria parasites to ACTs in some parts of the world, but not yet in Nigeria.

The major challenges Nigeria is experiencing in her fight to end Malaria were said to be essentially the same as being faced globally. In addition is the problem of delivering malaria interventions in humanitarian and complex emergencies in parts of the country.

The world malaria day commemoration as disclosed during the chats is aiding the fight against Malaria globally by raising awareness of the global burden of malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that kills a child every two minutes. WMD provides the opportunity to bring the discourse on malaria to the front burner and to educate citizens on simple actions they can take to prevent malaria.

The Theme for the 2024 World Malaria Day ‘Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world’, highlights the critical importance of advancing health equity, gender equality and human rights in malaria responses worldwide. It is meant to bring attention that no one is left behind and that everyone (individuals, families, and communities, and all stakeholders), irrespective of gender and status, has the right to access health services.

The slogan: Let’s change the malaria narrative now! emphasizes the urgent need for malaria to receive the necessary attention required to further reduce the prevalence of malaria.

The chat sessions reiterated two major strategies in place in Nigeria to end malaria which are Prevention (use of ITNs, conduct of indoor residual spraying (IRS), use of preventive medicine by pregnant women known as IPTp, and distribution of preventive medicines to eligible children (PMC – Perennial Malaria Chemoprevention or in SMC – Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention) and Diagnostic testing and treatment (testing using rapid diagnostic test kits or microscopy and treatment with ACTs)

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