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The Buhari-Dangote war on malaria

The Buhari-Dangote war on malaria

By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta

The inauguration of the Nigeria End-Malaria Council (NEMC) by President Muhammadu Buhari has raised expectations that a big push would be made towards freeing our country from the killer ailment.

The 16-member Council is chaired by the top business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. His entrepreneurship has contributed in making Nigeria self-sufficient in cement production. And soon his crude petroleum refinery will become operational and reduce Nigeria’s importation of white petroleum products.

It is important to note that earlier efforts to tackle malaria such as Roll Back Malaria in Nigeria, Africa and elsewhere in the world at best yielded mixed results only.

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO), other reporting agencies and numerous stakeholders have acclaimed the efforts, malaria has not been eradicated from at least 90 countries and territories. This is despite more funding for malaria control from Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the US President’s Malaria Initiative and the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria and   the participation of the private sector.

The new effort by Nigeria to check malaria is part of an Africa-wide initiative rooted in a resolution by the African Union.  A continent-wide approach is more comprehensive.  It has become alarming that the five types of parasites that cause malaria after infected mosquitoes bite humans have developed resistance to most current treatment regimes.  The problem of fake and substandard drugs aggravates the situation.  The newly-developed vaccine by international pharmaceutical companies should be accepted with serious caution, if not reluctance.

The parasites cause severe fever, terrible headache, continuous cough, and general body weakness, pain in the chest, watery stooling, vomiting and dizziness.  The dizziness is because of the anemia the disease induces.  Malaria leads to deaths in severe cases.  Any disease that causes deaths represents a threat to humanity and should be eliminated.

As it is evident that most of the types of organisms which cause malaria have developed resistance to current treatment regimes, the Dangote-led Council may look inward by building on the achievements of the Presidential Committee that was set up in 2005 to produce Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACTs) locally.  For instance, the farms for the cultivation of five varieties of Artemisia annua in Jigawa, Plateau, Ogun, Enugu, Cross River, Taraba, Kano, Nasarawa, Gombe and Katsina states may be reactivated and expanded to cultivate the plant massively.  Its leaves were successfully processed into various products for the effective treatment of malaria.

The Department of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health; the Raw Materials Research and Development Council and the Nigerian Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC) which were involved in the Artemisia annum process may as well be engaged to make important contributions to the eventual success of the Dangote-led Council in taming malaria.

In addition to reactivating and expanding the farms, a large-scale processing plant can be established for extracting the Artemisinin content from the leave biomass for the local production of affordable anti-malarial drugs.  This will save foreign exchange and create jobs. It can also make Nigeria a hub for the production of Artemisinin-based anti-malaria drugs (ACTs) in Africa.

Luckily enough, the Chairman of the End-Malaria Council, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has a strong knack and reputation for looking inwards to source raw materials for his businesses.  His Council can apply the same principle in sourcing the requisite raw materials locally for the production of anti-malarial drugs in the country.

An additional advantage of Artemisia annum is that the efficacy of its leaves biomass which cures malaria has more than a decade-long shelf life.  The smoke of burnt stems of the plant, which has no known side effects, is an effective repellant of mosquitoes and can be used in commercially producing mosquito coil.

A massive public sensitization programme on the Importance of keeping our surroundings clean will helpfully complement the availability and affordability of anti-malaria drugs in tackling the menace. Both the traditional and new media could be deployed simultaneously for the public sensitization effort.

Health Inspectors recruited by state and local governments to encourage cleanliness in homes and communities may be part of the arsenals deployable in the Buhari-Dangote war on malaria. This will make it a grass-root oriented exercise and enhance its chances of success.

Salisu Na’inna wrote from Dambatta town, Kano state.


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