Today Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Malaria Day and the theme for this year is "End Malaria For Good".
In view of this and in a bid to sensitize Nigerians on this deadly disease our correspondent Bassey Ubaha spoke to Dr Abimbola Osinowo, Lagos State Malaria Programme Manager.
Dr Osinowo shed more light on the disease as well as plans and measures taken by the Lagos state government to control and prevent malaria.
"Malaria is a disease that is transmitted and caused basically by plasmodium falciparum which is transmitted by the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito. It is very endemic in this environment and it has led to the illness and death of so many Nigerians.
What are the fresh efforts that the state govt. has put in place to control Malaria besides the donation of Mosquito nets?
The concern of the state government apart from the general populace are the vulnerable groups. These are children under 5yrs and pregnant women. The reason is that Malaria in these individuals are more severe than others and the mortality rate is a lot higher.
Based on that, the government has a lot of activities lined up for these vulnerable groups. When the pregnant women go for antenatal they get a long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets and also when children under 5yrs complete their immunization schedule, they get a net.
We also have a lot of preventive activities going on in Lagos state for instance the indoor residual spray whereby insecticide is sprayed on the walls in different homes to combat Malaria. Lava source management i.e Laviciding is also done. We also ensure that there is appropriate diagnosis because it is one thing to come down with fever and it is another thing for that fever to be Malaria. In our facilities we do free malaria testing and if indeed it is malaria, we treat them for free with ACTs (Artemisinin Combination Therapy).
Do you think that Malaria can be eradicated going by the myriad of measures and aids that the WHO has put in place in Africa?
Malaria can be eradicated if everybody plays their part. Why I say that is because we want to "End Malaria For Good" which is the theme for this year's World Malaria Day. The Government has a part to play as well as every individual for instance, what are you doing about the gutter in front of your house? Is the water in it flowing, have you cleared the dirt in your environment?
The drains we have were created by the state government but the dirt was put in by you and I so what have we done to ensure its removal? People just buy Malaria drugs over the counter without proper diagnosis to ascertain if it's Malaria? Also, starting Malaria drugs and not completing it can lead to resistance. Are the pregnant women and children sleeping under the nets provided? These are some preventive measures that we must ensure to eradicate malaria.
Does Our Culture Have a Role to Play in The Prevalence of Malaria?
In terms of prevalence, there are some people that still think that Malaria is caused by standing in the sun. There are so many cultural beliefs and some people don't even know that Malaria can be prevented by sleeping under the nets. Some people have used it for fishing purposes while others have even used the nets as window blinds. Doing all of this does not help in anyway instead nets should be used for the right reason and people should properly diagnosed before treating this disease.
What implication will the unavailability of the yet to be released Malaria vaccine have on Nigeria as reports have shown that the available vaccine will go to Kenya, Ghana and Malawi
The malaria vaccine is a welcome development because like I mentioned, Malaria is very endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and it is one of the diseases that we have a lot issues with so this vaccine is definitely a welcome development and we are more than happy that it is available.
However, before the start of a vaccine they want to be sure that it actually works. They've done clinical trials in the past but clinical trials is different from when you come to the implementation of the use of the vaccine. I'm not absolutely sure why those three countries were chosen but if you look at it geographically, Ghana is in West Africa, Kenya is in East Africa and Malawi is somewhere in Southern Africa. So definitely, the Sub Saharan Africa is covered and whatever data and information that are obtained in the course of the pilot study will assist in the overall use of the vaccine when they eventually release it for mass use.
I'm really delighted that all of this is happening because it will definitely reduce mortality and morbidity from this disease.