Antimalarial Treatment as a Lifestyle Habit in Nigeria
In Nigeria, malaria continues to hold the citizens’ ransom as it’s been estimated to be the second highest cause of death in the country. Nigeria is also currently the highest burdened country accounting for 27% of all global malaria cases. From the year 2015 to 2017, we witnessed an increase as 1.1 million people were affected with the disease. This sickness is responsible for – 60% Outpatient Visits to health facilities; 30%Childhood Deaths; 25% Deaths in Children under One and 11% maternal deaths in Nigeria.
In 2016, the Nigerian Government decided to change their strategy from malaria control to malaria elimination in accordance with the SDG Goal, which seeks to eliminate malaria in 2030, which in my opinion is not attainable!
These deaths caused by malaria is sadly not viewed as a public health epidemic that it is; as citizens have infused antimalarial treatment into their lifestyle where almost every month they renew their subscription like they do their mobile data.
Slight headaches or fever have people running to their nearest pharmacists for anti-malaria medications, and undiagnosed they select the drug that best suits their budget. The pharmacists also equip themselves with different anti-malaria drugs to meet the demands of their customers from different socio-economic class- as the drugs prices range from N400 to N2500.
This disease that is preventable and eradicable currently cost the country over 130billion a year due to treatment cost, prevention and loss of manpower; but despite this huge blow to the economy the Government continues to cover this deep wound with a simple bandage.
On World Malaria day 2018, the Lagos state Governor wife Ms. Ambode distributed over 3000 insecticide nets at the Makoko Community- a shanty town with a high population density ranging from 40,000 to as much as 300,000. Makoko is one of the largest low-income communities in the metropolitan area of Lagos that lack access to clean water and proper hygiene and is filled with trashes dumped indiscriminately by residents.
In a community like that, the Government’s primary focus should be to clean up that environment that acts as a safe haven for mosquitoes, because for how long will those citizens continue to use the mosquito nets? And how will they be protected from mosquitoes that bite during the day when they are not hidden underneath their nets?
Sadly, this problem is not exclusive to shanty towns, as refuse dumpsite can be found at almost every U-turn in a major residential area.
These refuse are also seen in close proximity to where people cook and sell food, as no specific body has been put in place to ensure that restaurants adhere by some safety guidelines; It’s no surprise that the number one cause of deaths in Nigeria is diarrheal diseases.
This lack of proper drainage systems and improper waste disposal makes Nigeria, a safe haven for mosquitoes. When walking down the streets, you are bound to find these gutters with brackish water and refuse littered everywhere; Public Defecation and urination is also a very common practice in the community as Nigeria has the second highest prevalence of open defecation in the world
I fear that we won’t be able to live up to the SDG 2030 goals, as we continuously fail to confront the root causes of malaria. In order to achieve the SDG goal, we need to have all hands on deck especially the involvement of the citizens.
There is a big need for the Government to advocate and implement sensitization programs that allow us as individuals reflect on how our behaviors and lifestyle continues to increase the rate of malaria infections.
We citizens litter our environment but complain that the gutters are full and the drainage systems don’t work; we urinate in public but complain that the environment is bursting with flies and an obnoxious odor; and because we continue to view malaria as a regular ailment that needs to be treated every few months- instead of finding ways to prevent, we are focused on treatment.
In a country with the highest amount of poor people in the world, it is counterproductive for the testing of Malaria to be three times the price of the medication-Our interview with a lab scientist revealed that poverty was one of the core reasons why many people refuse to get tested.
The Nigerian Government needs to deploy affordable rapid diagnostic test kits to promote testing, as this will reduce the rate at which people self- diagnose and the availability of these kits at the local communities will allow us to be able to detect the disease at its early stages.
Laws need to be enforced against public urination and defecation but ultimately we need to begin to view malaria as the life-threatening ailment that it is.
We need to step away from normalizing malaria as a lifestyle choice.