Nigeria: Global Malaria Control – It’s Time to Cast Down the Net

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maybe as her own demonstration of love during the Valentine season, the First Lady of Nigeria – Dame Patience Jonathan on Sunday February 13, 2011 turned a portion of Aso Rock into a repository for insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) that were subsequently distributed to some categories of Nigerian women.

Her love gift is one out of the numerous efforts by various individuals, groups, communities, societies, agencies, governments, stakeholders and non stakeholders alike, in the fight against malaria that has decisively and ruthlessly dealt with the third world tropical countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Public health officials had hoped to wipe out malaria during the 20th century. However, malaria parasites have developed several defense mechanisms against many anti-malarial drugs. This response, known as drug resistance, makes the drugs less effective. In addition, the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit the disease have become resistant to many insecticides. Hence malaria remains a global health problem although Nigeria and other sub-Saharan Africa countries are worst hit, and public health efforts today focus on controlling it.

Although a worldwide effort is under way to develop potent vaccines that protect against malaria, the prospect so far has not been bright and medical scientists are still several light years away from making reliable, stable and safe malaria vaccines available. In the meantime however, researches by the WHO and other bodies have found that sleeping under mosquito bed nets treated with insecticide can greatly reduce deaths from malaria, especially among children.

Nets treated with insecticides-known as insecticide treated nets (ITNs) — were developed in the 1980s for malaria prevention. Insecticide-treated nets (ITN) are estimated to be twice as effective as untreated nets, and offer greater than 70 per cent protection compared with no nets. These nets are dip treated using a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide such as deltamethrin or permethrin which will double the protection over a non-treated net by killing and repelling mosquitoes. ITNs have been shown to be the most cost-effective prevention method so far against malaria and are part of WHO’s plan towards the realization and actualization of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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