NEW YORK CITY – The World Health Organisation (WHO) said up to 10,000 lives in Nigeria can be saved by November through targeted steps in malaria prevention and control, if more funds are secured.
Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said to manage malaria in Borno, WHO and its partners were strengthening surveillance systems to monitor cases and outbreaks.
Alonso said they were also increasing people’s access to care in clinics and to health facilities, and spraying insecticides and distributing bed nets as part of vector control.
According to him, WHO and partners are also administering malaria drugs to children under five every month from July to October.
Following more than eight years of conflict in Borno, some 3.7 million people need humanitarian assistance, and all are at risk for malaria, WHO said.
The UN health agency estimates that through October, 8,500 people were infected weekly, with more expected.
“The most effective way to reduce deaths in emergencies in fragile States, 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.
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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.
The vulnerable population, consisting of 58.8 per cent children, stands at risk of disease outbreaks, WHO said.
WHO said with more than 60 per cent of health facilities only partially functioning, many people have not had access for years to regular health services, including vaccinations and basic medicines.
In addition to security concerns, deadly malnutrition is rising in parts of the state, the UN health agency said.
Alonso said “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 per cent, averting six million deaths.”
He said WHO malaria experts commissioned a modelling exercise that concluded that joint actions could prevent up to 10,000 deaths in Borno alone.
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In early 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, he said.
“WHO hopes for 2.5 million dollars to mobilise 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.
“It’s a necessary temporary fix to reduce malaria deaths for the next six months,” the WHO official said.
The UN statement said WHO has trained community health workers to offer rapid and read diagnostic tests, provide treatment and advice on prevention.
WHO quoted Dr 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”.
African News Agency