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World Malaria Day is an annual event celebrated every April 25th to raise awareness and support for efforts to control, prevent, and eventually eliminate malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) selects a theme each year to galvanize global action towards the eradication of this deadly disease. This year’s theme, “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement,” highlights the need for increased investment, innovation, and implementation of effective strategies to reach marginalized communities.

Despite significant progress being made in the fight against malaria in recent decades, the disease remains a significant public health challenge worldwide. The latest World Malaria Report shows that the WHO African Region bears a high percentage of the global malaria burden, with Nigeria having the highest burden in the world. In 2022, the African region was home to approximately 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of deaths, with children under the age of five accounting for 80% of all malaria deaths. Four African countries, including Nigeria, accounted for over half of all malaria deaths worldwide. Nigeria alone accounted for 31.3% of global malaria deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.6%), the United Republic of Tanzania (4.1%), and Niger (3.9%).

Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The disease largely affects children under the age of five and pregnant women, with severe cases leading to death. The Nigerian government and various non-governmental organizations have made significant efforts to tackle malaria, including the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and improved access to effective antimalarial drugs. However, these interventions face significant challenges, including inadequate funding, weak health systems, and resistance to antimalarial drugs and insecticides.

In recent years, international donors have increased their support for malaria control programs in many countries, including Nigeria. However, funding for malaria control is still insufficient to meet global targets for its elimination. Thus, there is a need for sustained investment in malaria control and research, with a focus on increasing domestic financing for malaria programs and reducing dependence on international donors. With Nigeria having the highest cases of malaria in the world, the government must prioritize funding for malaria programs and work towards sustainable financing mechanisms. This will ensure that malaria interventions are adequately funded and implemented, reducing the burden of the disease on the most vulnerable communities.

Innovation has been a key driver of progress in the fight against malaria. Innovative approaches, such as the development of new antimalarial drugs, insecticides & vaccines, and larvae control of the malaria parasite have contributed significantly to reducing the burden of malaria in many parts of the world. However, there is still a need for more innovative solutions to tackle the remaining challenges in malaria control. This includes the development of new vector control tools, such as long-lasting insecticidal nets that are resistant to insecticide resistance, as well as the use of new diagnostic tools and treatments to improve the accuracy and speed of malaria diagnosis and treatment.

Furthermore, the fight against malaria must also include improved access to diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical to reducing the severity of the disease and preventing deaths. Community-based approaches such as community health workers and mobile clinics can help expand access to malaria diagnosis and treatment, especially in rural areas. Effective partnerships are also critical to accelerating progress towards malaria elimination.

The Nigerian government needs to work with civil society organizations willing to support the fight against malaria, particularly in rural areas where access to healthcare is limited. The government and stakeholders at the forefront of malaria elimination should bear in mind that the disease’s elimination does not require a complete absence of malaria cases in the country. Imported cases will continue to be detected due to international travel and may occasionally lead to the occurrence of introduced cases in the country.

Reducing the transmission of malaria from highly endemic levels remains the immediate task in Nigeria. Reduced endemic malaria transmission to low levels will mean that malaria does not constitute a major public health burden. As we mark World Malaria Day in 2023, let us recommit ourselves to the fight against malaria and make zero malaria in Nigeria a reality.

In conclusion, malaria remains a significant public health challenge globally, with Nigeria being severely affected. To achieve zero malaria, there is an urgent need for increased investment in malaria control programs, innovative solutions, improved access to diagnosis and treatment, and effective partnerships between governments, NGOs, and international donors. The Nigerian government must prioritize funding for malaria programs and work towards sustainable financing mechanisms. Together, we can eradicate malaria and save millions of lives, particularly those of vulnerable communities in Nigeria and across the world.

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