The National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) has warned that malaria deaths could double in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2020 if prevention and treatment interruptions due to COVID-19 continue.
The NMEP National Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Audu Mohammed, who gave the warning, said there had been a reduction in malaria prevalence from 42% to 23% according to an NDHS research in 2018.
But he fears that the COVID-19 outbreak has jeopardised the progress made and caused a spike in the 38% reduction in mortality rates already achieved in 2018.
He said ‘‘with the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic the malaria challenge seems to be compounded. A lot still needs to improve, as we are not close to most of the targets we had set out to achieve in our current malaria strategic plan’’
“Recent projections suggest that where most prevention activities are cancelled or delayed, and malaria services like insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines experience severe disruption, then malaria deaths in Sub-Sahara Africa could double by the end of 2020’’.
“Under the worst-case scenario presented in an analysis that was done, the death toll in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would exceed the total number of malaria deaths reported globally in the year 2000,” said Audu.
Dr. Audu further warned that Nigeria must minimize disruptions in treatment and prevention of malaria during the COVID-19 response given that failure to do so could lead to catastrophic loss of life.
He, however, says there are concerns by community members seeking healthcare, given that COVID-19 entry symptoms are same as those of malaria, coupled with delays at health facilities, and the stigmatization of COVID-19 patients.
The federal government health agency says due to the new challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak, it is now prioritizing interventions, streamlining campaign activities for insecticide-treated nets and increasing prompt diagnostic testing and treatment.