Nigeria leads in global malaria burden

Nigeria is making less progress in eradicating the malaria scourge, as a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows the country taking the lead in a rather negative health index.
According to the 2018 World Malaria report released yesterday, five countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide, with Nigeria accounting for 25 percent of this, followed by the DR Congo with 11 percent, Mozambique 5 percent, India 4 percent, and Uganda 4 percent. Fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 80 percent of the global malaria burden.
The 10 highest burden countries in Africa reported increases in cases of malaria in 2017 compared with 2016. Of these, Nigeria, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the highest estimated increases, all greater than half a million cases. In contrast, India reported 3 million fewer cases in the same period, a 24 percent decrease compared with 2016.

WHO in a press statement after releasing the report, noted that reductions in malaria cases have stalled after several years of decline globally. To get the reduction in malaria deaths and disease back on track, WHO and partners are joining a new country-led response, to scale up prevention and treatment, and increased investment, to protect vulnerable people from the deadly disease.
For the second consecutive year, the annual report produced by WHO reveals an increase in numbers of people affected by malaria. In 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared to 217 million the year before. But in the years prior, the number of people contracting malaria globally had been steadily falling, from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015.

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“Nobody should die from malaria. But the world faces a new reality: as progress stagnates, we are at risk of squandering years of toil, investment and success in reducing the number of people suffering from the disease,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.
“We recognise we have to do something different – now. So today we are launching a country-focused and -led plan to take comprehensive action against malaria by making our work more effective where it counts most – at local level.”
According to WHO, in 2017, approximately 70 percent of all malaria cases (151 million) and deaths (274,000) were concentrated in 11 countries: 10 in Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) and India.

There were 3.5 million more malaria cases reported in these 10 African countries in 2017 compared to the previous year, while India, however, showed progress in reducing its disease burden.
Despite marginal increases in recent years in the distribution and use of insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa – the primary tool for preventing malaria – the report highlights major coverage gaps. In 2017, an estimated half of at-risk people in Africa did not sleep under a treated net. Also, fewer homes are being protected by indoor residual spraying than before, and access to preventive therapies that protect pregnant women and children from malaria remains too low.

While it is unclear how Nigeria will respond to this new health challenge, it is worthy of note that the report also indicated Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which together have nearly 40% of the global burden of malaria, have been unable to deploy Community Health Workers in most of the hard-to-reach areas of the countries.
Nigeria also recorded the largest gap in Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC), when compared with the other (eleven) countries that have implemented SMC in their countries.

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