Shuaib Ahmed lives behind a local block-making workshop in Abuja.
Here, workers make blocks out of clay, the most common type of blocks used in building shanties and substandard houses in Dakibiu, a densely populated informal settlement in the nation’s capital.
There is a big waterhole, the size of swimming pool almost in the middle of the workshop situated at a valley adjacent to a waste dump site.
The waterhole, the workshop’s source of water, is thick green due to stagnation of water and formation of algae in it. It is paradise for mosquitoes.
Mr Shuaib’s house and about 40 other decrepit houses are only a few feet from the waterhole.
“The most common disease in this village is malaria and as you can see, our environment is the main cause of it,” Mr Shuaib, a florist told PREMIUM TIMES. “Even in broad daylight, big mosquitoes and sun flies are always biting us,” he said.
There is no primary healthcare centre in the community. “Me and my family rely on herbal medicine to treat malaria.”
Abuja is one of the most beautiful, better organised cities in Nigeria, but it has a long shadow. Beneath the shadow are the slum areas, which most of the residents consider the real Abuja.
Of all the many developmental challenges posed by the slum areas of the Federal Capital Territory, that of health is grave. According to the World Health Organisation, poorly planned or unplanned urbanisation patterns represent a major public health challenge.
A slum is typically a living space within an urban area that is overcrowded, with no permanent structures, little or no access to water, inadequate sanitation and no drainage or waste management system. This definition alone highlights the numerous health complications that can arise from living in a slum. There are many slums springing up across the FCT.
Dakibiu, one of such slum areas, is located close to Jabi, one of the commercial nerve centres of the FCT. The crowded houses are decrepit, do not have toilets and are surrounded by stagnant water bodies in unchannelled pathways.
At almost every turn is a refuse dumpsite. All these make Dakibiu a stinking slum, and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
‘Malaria’: that was the first name mentioned by all 15 residents asked of the most common cause of illness in the community.
Like Dakibiu, almost all the slums in Abuja are bedevilled by closed spaces, lack of sanitation, insufficient or non-existent water supply, lack of drainage systems and improper waste disposal, features that make such communities an haven for mosquitoes.
In commemoration of the 2018 World Malaria Day, health advocates called on governments, health bodies, private sector companies and members of the public to renew their focus on eliminating malaria by 2030.
This may be a mirage if communities like Dukibiu where residents share territory with mosquitoes do not have primary healthcare centres, constant supply of malaria drugs, treated mosquito nets and clean environments.
Malaria, one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history
In 2016, over 216 million people around the world had malaria, five million more than the year before. Malaria-related death stood at 445,000, with 91 per cent of these in Africa.
Half the world is still at risk from malaria, a preventable, treatable disease, which kills a child every two minutes. Some countries also saw an increase of over 20 per cent in malaria cases between 2015 and 2016.
Unfortunately, 15 countries carried the heaviest malaria burden in 2016, together accounting for 80 percent of global malaria cases and deaths.
Currently, Nigeria is the highest-burden country, accounting for 27 per cent of global malaria cases and the overall financial gap over the next three years to implement national malaria strategy is US$ 1.4 billion.
Nigeria has benefited from support from various partners for malaria control. Currently, the largest funding partners are the Global Fund, the U.S. Government, and United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID).
Other key partners include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the WHO.
Despite these funds and concerted efforts geared towards the fight against malaria, Nigeria is yet to tackle 50 per cent of the problem posed by malaria, a disease threatening 97 per cent of its population.
As Nigeria recently marked the World Malaria Day 2018, with the theme “Ready to beat malaria” the coverage of the anti-malaria fight in Nigeria remains low even as slum dwellers continue to bear more of the brunt of the ailment.