By Ngozi Nwabuisi
As part of efforts to eliminate the incidence of malaria in pregnancy and its adverse effects on unborn babies, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP)has partnered the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) to tackle the scourge in Nigeria.
NMEP, therefore, appealed to HEWAN to step up awareness on the dangers of malaria in pregnancy by constantly reminding pregnant women of the importance of early anti-natal registration and the need for them to take at least three doses of Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine (SP),an Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy ( IPTp).
National Coordinator,NMEP, Dr Audu Mohammad, who made the plea during a Media parley on malaria titled “ Malaria in Pregnancy” organised by the health writers in Lagos recently, said malaria is a problem that required a multi-pronged approach,adding that the media was critical to solving this age-long problem.
According to statistics from NMEP, malaria is responsible for 60 percent of outpatient visits to health facilities, 30 percent of childhood deaths, 25 percent of deaths in children under one year, and 11 percent of maternal deaths. Mohammed, who was represented by Dr Joel Akilah, Head of Integrated Vector Managementr, NMEP, noted that increasing the awareness on SP intake to prevent malaria in pregnancy had become critically important because the pregnant woman and her unborn child were most at risk of dying from the disease.
He explained:“This is especially when considered against the backdrop of the negative effects of malaria attacks on our social and economic development as a result of absenteeism from schools, offices and farms.Thus malaria is a major public health concern in Nigeria.
Over 90 per cent of Nigerians are at risk of malaria while children under five and pregnant women are seen to be more vulnerable to this disease, hence the focus of this discussion.
“Although Nigeria has made giant strides in the fight against malaria, a lot of work still needs to be done to eliminate malaria in Nigeria. There has been reduction in the prevalence of malaria from 42 per cent (according to the Malaria Indicator Survey MIS 2010) to 27 per cent (MIS 2015). Improvement in the uptake of Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy ( IPTp) from13 per cent (NMIS 2010) to 19 per cent (NMIS 2015) by pregnant women who received at least two doses of SP has also been documented.
“However, uptake of 19 per cent SP is relatively low if Nigeria must eliminate incidence of malaria in Pregnancy and its adverse effects, he said.
According to the NMEP boss, malaria is a problem that requires a multi-pronged approach and the belief is that the media is central to solving this challenge.“It is for this reason we have invited you all as partners in the fight against malaria, to interact together to build synergy to create the needed awareness. “ As such, it is necessary for the media to be equipped with adequate information as well as be aware of current policies, community mobilisation and partners involvement in malaria elimination, he said.