Malaria kills more people that HIV, leprosy and tuberculosis all put together.
Malaria is responsible for 11 per cent of maternal deaths in Nigeria, Jhpiego, a non-governmental agency and an affiliate of John Hopkins University, said on Thursday.
The Country Director of the organization, Emmanuel Otolorin, said in Abuja that about 20 per cent of children who die before the age of five die of malaria.
“Eleven per cent of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth, die because of malaria, about 20 per cent of children who die before the age of 5 die because of malaria, so malaria is a big problem; in fact, there are more deaths from malaria in Nigeria than deaths from HIV, leprosy, tuberculosis all put together.
Mr. Otolorin said that there is the need to create awareness so that more pregnant women and children can gain access to malaria commodities.
“As you know, malaria is a major cause of maternal mortality, and newborn mortality globally and particularly in Africa and more specifically in Nigeria.
“There are very simple interventions that have been identified by WHO and in the global bodies for controlling malaria in pregnancy, but the problem is that in this country, a very low percentage of pregnant women access such interventions,” he said.
Mr. Otolorin said there should be a strict adherence to twice dosage of malaria treatment for all pregnant women to reduce maternal mortality from malaria.
“Every pregnant woman should take an anti-malaria drug at least twice in pregnancy, whether or not she has symptoms of malaria, because we know that when they don’t have symptoms of malaria, they have malaria parasite in their blood.
He said malaria parasite can cause anaemia, can damage the placenta and reduce the exchange of food and oxygen between the mother and baby so that the baby is starved while in the stomach.
The Jhpiego Country Director said pregnant women must take anti malaria drugs once they start to feel the baby moving.
Prevention of deaths from malaria
The country director said that early recognition of persons who have clinical malaria is possible with the use of rapid diagnosis tests so as to prevent deaths from malaria.
He said about 50 per cent of persons being treated for malaria actually suffered from symptoms of fever, and that treatment should begin with artemisine combination therapy.
Mr. Otolorin also spoke on the importance of sanitation, stressing that water-logged areas is a breeding ground for malaria.
“Sanitation is key because breeding ground for mosquitoes needs to be eradicated, swampy areas, anywhere water can collect, especially during the raining seasons; collection of water in bottles, plastic bottles, pots and pans, and so on.
“Once you have stagnant water, the mosquitoes can lay their eggs there and they grow, and then you have mosquitoes coming out of breeding ground very close to our houses.
“So you need to clear the surroundings, you need to make sure that you don’t have containers that harbour stagnant waters around; these are part of the environmental control for preventing malaria,” Mr. Otolorin said.