The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria can save 10,000 lives by November if targeted steps are taken towards malaria prevention and control.
Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s global malaria programme, said WHO and its partners were strengthening surveillance systems to monitor cases and outbreaks of malaria in Borno.
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.
He said WHO malaria experts commissioned a modelling exercise that concluded that joint actions could prevent up to 10,000 deaths in Borno alone.
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.
“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,” Alonso said.
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 and that the vulnerable population, consisting of 58.8% children, stands at risk of disease outbreaks.
With more than 60 percent of health facilities only partially functioning, WHO said many people have not had access for years to regular health services, including vaccinations and basic medicines.
“Malaria, malnutrition, fragile states and civil strife often feed each other. Wherever we have a humanitarian crisis in a malaria endemic country, we can almost always be sure that malaria is the number one killer.
“However, malaria is preventable and curable, and increased efforts over the last 15 years have drastically reduced related mortality rates by more than 60%, averting six million deaths.
“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.”
WHO quoted Wondi Alemu, WHO representative in Nigeria, 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 of people from malaria so they can get on with their lives.”