Malaria still remains one of the silent killers in Nigeria as about 627,000 deaths are recorded annually, especially among children under the age of five, the General Manager, Joint Ventures Operations, Mobil Producing Nigeria, Mr. John Arkley, said Tuesday in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
Speaking at the launch of Nightwatch campaign by Malaria No More, Arkley regretted that despite its preventable and treatable nature, malaria had continued to wreak havoc on Nigerians.
"Today, malaria is still a major public health problem in Nigeria. It accounts for more cases of deaths than any other country in the world. It also contributes significantly to an estimated 11 per cent of maternal mortality in Nigeria and remains a risk for 97 per cent of Nigeria's population," he noted
Represented by Dr. Dim Susan, he said his company had within the past 13 years partnered major stakeholders in the fight against malaria and had assisted in distributing not less than 13 million bed nets.
He said the oil major would continue to be committed to the fight against malaria and expressed optimism that improved health and development can be realised if Nigerians are united to defeat the scourge.
The Akwa Ibom State Government disclosed that as part of activities to mark the 2014 World Malaria Day, arrangements had been put in place to distribute 2.5 million long lasting insecticidal mosquito-treated nets to members of the public.
The state governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, represented by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Ememabasi Bassey, said the preventive measure was necessitated by the number of death recorded annually in Africa and especially Nigeria due to malaria.
He expressed disappointment that of the 1.5million treated nets distributed in the state last year, less than 40 per cent of the 80 per cent house hold cóverage recorded during the exercise actually made use of the nets.
He therefore appealed to Nigerians to accord prevention of malaria the needed commitment and priority.
Recounting the socio-economic impact of malaria on Nigerians, the governor attributed 60 per cent of school absentism in children, over 40 per cent of absentism of workforce to malaria, adding that over N80 billion was expended annually for treatment and prevention of malaria in Nigeria.
"Akwa Ibom State Government sees malaria and it related problems as that which needs to be prioritised. The emphasis must shift from controlling to elimination. As a state, we have achieved significantly in the area of control through provision of ATC drugs for free distribution through our health facilities, we have also provided tools for rapid diagnostic test even in our primary health facilities and i want to encourage everyone to make use of these provisions as well as sleep under treated nets," he advised.
Earlier, the Country Director of Malaria No More, Dayo Oluwále, said the National NightWatch campaign seeks to drive appropriate public attention and action on malaria prevention and treatment.
"Nightwatch aims to improve public awareness and behaviour around malaria prevention by focusing awareness for use of long lasting treated bed nets and other treatment. Every three minutes, somebody
is lost because of malaria, that is why we have decided to engage politicians, businessmen, entertainers and others to pilot this all-important campaign," she said.