Experts Concern About The Impact Of The Pandemic On Malaria Progress In Nigeria | Voice of America
ABUJA, NIGERIA – A warning from the World Health Organization that the COVID-19 pandemic could affect malaria eradication efforts appears to be coming true in Nigeria. Nigerian officials say people are declining treatment because they fear getting the virus in a clinic.
Fatima Mohammed is in her home in a camp for displaced persons in Abuja, taking care of her two sons who are currently suffering from malaria.
She says she can’t afford large hospital bills and fears they could be rushed to the hospital for possible exposure or misdiagnosis of COVID-19.
“I have no money to take them to the hospital – and in the hospital they’ll easily call it coronavirus,” she said. “I have no money for it.”
Malaria and COVID-19 share similar symptoms, but fear and stigma surrounding the pandemic are reasons many like Fatima are looking for alternatives to hospital treatment.
Health experts say visits to hospitals for malaria in Nigeria have decreased significantly since the coronavirus was reported in February 2020.
The World Health Organization’s 2020 World Malaria Report suggested that the pandemic threatened years of advances in malaria control and warned that the death rate from the mosquito-borne disease could double.
WHO malaria advisor Lynda Ozor says the disruption in preventive measures is to blame.
“The use of long-lasting insecticidal nets, seasonal malaria chemotherapy, and prevention of malaria in pregnancy have all been discontinued,” she said. “Assuming all of these preventive measures have been interrupted, this was expected and the model shows that it will.” be very negative effects. “
Nigeria is responsible for about a quarter of malaria cases worldwide and about 23% of deaths worldwide.
Even before the COVID-19 hit, many Nigerians were taking malaria less seriously, says Adeboyega Adeyogo, who heads pharmaceutical operations at WellaHealth, a Nigerian healthcare company focused on malaria eradication.
“With advances in health and technology, many people resolve malaria in a matter of days,” Adeyogo said. “So you can see that many Nigerians are now taking it with a lot of ease because of the ease of treatment. But if they choose to avoid it.” Then it becomes a big problem and you are now seeing the serious complications that are associated with malaria. “
Nigeria’s National Malaria Elimination Program is set to provide 31 million people with free mosquito nets, anti-malarial drugs and malaria tests last year. However, disruption caused by COVID-19 meant they only reached half of their destination.
This has increased concerns that malaria, along with COVID-19, will remain a threat to Nigerians for years to come.