Combating Malaria in Nigeria: Observing World Malaria Day

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By Cecilia Attah

Malaria is a deadly disease caused by the Anopheles mosquito’s bite, which transmits plasmodium parasites into the human bloodstream. This disease makes an individual feel very sick with a high fever. Other than fever, chills, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, abdominal pain and fatigue are a few symptoms of malaria.

The disease is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, with young children living in the poorest households in sub-Saharan Africa being disproportionately affected.

Despite the efforts of national malaria programs and their partners, malaria remains a significant global health challenge, claiming the lives of an estimated 608,000 people worldwide in 2022 according to the statistics given by the WHO. “A mortality rate of 14·3 deaths per 100 000 population at risk. More than 50% of all deaths occurred in just four countries—Nigeria (31%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12%), Niger (6%), and Tanzania (4%)”. This shows Nigeria been the highest being dealt with by malaria.

Every year, April 25th marks World Malaria Day, a global initiative established by the World Health Organization to serve as a global platform to raise awareness about malaria and mobilise efforts to control and prevent the disease.

In Nigeria, where malaria poses a persistent public health threat, this day holds particular significance.

With a high burden of malaria-related morbidity and mortality, Nigeria continues to struggle with the socio-economic impact of this preventable and treatable disease.

The theme for World Malaria Day 2024 is “Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world,” which aligns with the World Health Day theme of “My Health, My Right.” emphasizes the urgent need to address the disparities in access to malaria prevention, detection, and treatment services.

Nigeria bears one of the heaviest malaria burdens globally, with approximately 53 million cases and over 150,000 deaths reported annually. Malaria affects vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and children under five years old, according to an interview by university of oxford with Philippe Guerin, a Professor of Epidemiology and Global Health at the University of Oxford, with a special interest in malaria ‘Malaria treatment guidelines are developed for the general population, but are rarely tailored for vulnerable subpopulations such as babies, pregnant women, and patients with comorbidities such as malnutrition, or HIV co-infections.

‘It is imperative to develop optimised approaches for these groups too, to give them the best treatment for them. This is what is called precision public health.’


Beyond its toll on public health, malaria exacts a heavy toll on Nigeria’s socio-economic development, impeding productivity and escalating healthcare costs.

There are several factors that contribute to the persistence of malaria in Nigeria, these include inadequate healthcare infrastructure, limited access to essential malaria interventions, such as insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) and antimalarial drugs, as well as environmental and socio-economic determinants that facilitate mosquito breeding and transmission.

Addressing malaria in Nigeria requires a dynamic approach that encompasses prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Although USAID has implemented a malaria-free initiative called the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative for States (PMI-S) with its motto “it takes a village” to achieve a malaria-free Nigeria.

PMI-S is already being implemented in eight states, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi,  Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, and Zamfara and works with health officials at all levels to improve quality and access to services, as well as reduce under-five and maternal mortality.

However, here are some strategies that need to be employed to completely eliminate malaria:

Vector Control: Implementing indoor residual spraying (IRS) and distributing insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are critical strategies for reducing mosquito populations and preventing malaria transmission. Regular IRS campaigns, coupled with the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets, can significantly reduce malaria morbidity and mortality.

Improved Access to Healthcare: Strengthening healthcare systems and expanding access to quality malaria diagnosis and treatment services are essential. This includes ensuring the availability of diagnostic tools like rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and effective antimalarial medications such as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

Community Engagement: Engaging communities through health education and community-based interventions can enhance malaria awareness, promote preventive behaviours, and encourage early treatment-seeking. Community health workers play a vital role in delivering malaria prevention and treatment services at the grassroots level.

Intersectoral Collaboration: Collaboration between government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private sector partners is crucial for coordinating malaria control efforts. Intersectoral collaboration can facilitate resource mobilization, innovative approaches to malaria control, and the integration of malaria interventions into broader health programs.

Research and Innovation: Investing in research and innovation is fundamental for developing new tools and strategies for malaria control. This includes research on drug resistance, vector behaviour, vaccine development, and novel mosquito control technologies.

As Nigeria observes World Malaria Day, it is paramount to reaffirm its commitment towards ending malaria-related suffering and building a healthier, malaria-free nation. Sustained political will, adequate funding, and partnerships at all levels are indispensable for realizing this vision. Together, through unwavering determination and collective action, Nigeria can make significant strides towards malaria elimination and ensure a brighter, healthier future for all its citizens.

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