Africa Malaria Day and Nigeria's new strategy

18 Jul 2006
The Tide Online

On the 25th of April 2000 an unprecedented number of Heads of State or representatives from 44 malaria afflicted countries in Africa came together in Abuja, Nigeria to attend the first-ever Summit on Malaria.

At the summit the African leaders signed the historic Abuja Declaration committing them to an intensive effort to halve the burden of malaria by 2010 and setting interim targets for the year 2005.

They resolved to initiate appropriate and sustainable action to strengthen the health systems to ensure that by the year 2005:

At least 60% of those suffering from malaria have prompt access to affordable and appropriate treatment within 24hrs of onset of symptoms.

At least 60% of those at risk of malaria, particularly, pregnant women and children under five years of age, benefit from the most suitable combination of personal and community protective measures such as insecticide treated mosquito nets and other interventions which are accessible and affordable to prevent infection and suffering.

At least 60% of all pregnant women who are at risk of malaria, especially, those in their first pregnancies have access to chemoprophylaxis or preventive intermittent treatment.

Since then the day has been celebrated annually to:

Remind governments and other partners and stakeholders. of their commitments and obligations to the Abuja targets;

Encourage collaborations at all levels among e.g. Ministries of Health, Education, Information, Women Affairs, Water Resources, Environment, and among all tiers of Government;

Integrate relevant programmes such as Child and Adolescent health; Reproductive Health, Immunizations, Primary Health Care, Health Promotion to foster popular education, building on the knowledge that people have on malaria to address issues that are relevant to them in controlling the disease;

Advocate for policies and strategies that promote the early recognition of symptoms and treatment for all, especially in children and pregnant women; and lobby government and other partners for provision of affordable ITNs for the vulnerable groups.

The first Africa Malaria Day took place in 2001 with the theme "insecticide-treated nets". The host country, Nigeria, organised series of events to mark the maiden celebration. These included radio jingles with a clear message on malaria control and prevention, rallies in states and communities promoting malaria control through the REM principles in partnership with all stakeholders, malaria causation, diagnosis, treatment and prevention including use of insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and environmental management and sanitation, School debates were also organised on malaria control and RBM T-shirts, caps and IEC materials distributed.

In 2002, the focus was on the Community particularly on community members such as health workers, mothers, shopkeepers, birth attendants and others who often provide the first point of contact for sick people living in remote, under-served areas. Activities highlighted and celebrated the work done by these individuals, whose efforts often go unrewarded and unrecognised.

Countries across Africa organized large-scale activities supported by a huge range of partners WHO, UNICEF, World Bank, UNDP, multilbilateral agencies, international and local NGOs, and the private sector, while other partners used the day to organize their own activities:

The Africa Malaria Day 2003 had the theme "insecticide treated nets and effective malaria treatment for pregnant women and young children by 2005" and the slogan was: Roll Back Malaria, Protect Women and Children. In 2004 the theme was" A Malaria Free Future" with the slogan "Children for Children to Roll Back Malaria". The celebrations focus on children and provided them with the opportunity to campaign on their own behalf and help to raise awareness of large numbers of children and adults in malaria- endemic countries through activities in schools, youth clubs, churches and anywhere children congregate. RBM partners and other stakeholders celebrated AMD 2004 in Nigeria with a weeklong program involving a ministerial press conference, road shows, musical concert, rallies, formation and launch of malaria club in school and s children parliament among others.

The theme for 2005 AMD was "Unite Against Malaria" and the slogan " Together we can beat malaria". A weeklong activities were organised to mark 2005 AMD celebration, which included Media forum by Hon. Minister of Health, NGO forum/Launching of NGO National Guideline, Debate among secondary school students, participation in Radio link Network programme, exhibition of ITNs and anti-malaria drugs, cultural and Drama display, market storm, road shows at the national level and state level.

The 2006 AMD is being commemorated on April 25 2006 with the theme: Get your ACT together" and the slogan is "Universal Access to Effective Malaria Treatment is a Human Right".

Plans are already in top gear to ensure a successful celebration at the National and state level.

Activities for planned AMD 2006 include, sensitization and Update Round Table for Health writers, Ministerial Dinner for Editors, Radio link programme, Tuesday Night Live, Public Lecture in the Church and Mosque, National Launch! Seminar, Rally, Exhibition of ITNs and anti-malaria drugs, school debate and essay competition.

Malaria can be safely described as a mortal enemy of our people, considering its endemic nature, and its varied and extensive consequences. This becomes easier to appreciate as it is responsible for one in every three deaths of under-five children, and one in every death during child bearing among women in the country. It has not only put pressure on our health system accounting for 65% of clinic attendance, but also put pressure on our pockets, forcing all communities, families and individuals to pay unfair out of pocket expenses every year.

Nigeria, with the recently developed strategic plan, has decided to do business of malaria control differently, no longer 'business as usual. In scaling up the interventions, partnerships at all tiers of government are being strengthened; new initiatives and integrations are been established such as adding Insecticide treated nets as add on to routine and supplemental immunization activities such as Immunisation Plus Days, Local Immunizations Days, National Immunization Days, Mass Measles Campaign and Reaching Every Ward with ITNs; Community, Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI); Community Directed Interventions e.g. WHO/TDR supported research projects in Ibadan, Kaduna and Yola orientation for relevant stakeholders (Non-Health Workers):

Representatives of NGOs: At the NGO National Summit on Roll Back Malaria in December 2004, Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, more than 200 representatives of Non-governmental organizations were briefed on progress made in the efforts to control malaria. It was a collaborative activity organized by NGO Network Action.

Health, supported by RBM Partnership, Geneva. A decision to finalise the guideline on mechanism to actively engage NGOs in RBM Scale up process in Nigeria was made. The document has since been finalised, launched, disseminated and is being used currently. NGO Network has been established and is functional.

Media Practitioners: At a training workshop for Print Media Editors, July 11-16, 2005, Abuja, tagged "Knowledge Sharing on Reporting Trends in Malaria Policy, Prevention and Treatment", print media editors from 15 national newspapers were briefed and given hands-on skills in generating, reporting and effective communication for malaria control.

This was a collaborative activity between USAID, ENHANSE and WHO, organized by a media outfit, Internews Network, Nigeria Office. A similar orientation seminar was conducted in Akodo, Lagos in March, 2006 for health correspondents on Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) hosted several and participated in monthly meetings of RBM Partners and consultative meetings. RBM partners facilitated the establishment and maintenance of state level partnership fora. Documentation of country RBM partnership profile is on-going and would be published soon. We have mobilised key stakeholders such as Nigerian Army (including the other members of the Armed Forces) in Lagos; AFCOTT farmers in Yola; the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members; and students through School Health Clubs, NGOs, among others, for active involvement in the fight against malaria. While strengthening existing partnership and collaborations, we are targeting others at sub-national levels.

United we stand, divided we fall. We will unite and win against malaria. We are ready to get our ACT together and we declare that "Universal Access to Effective Malaria Treatment is a Human Right"

Culled from WHO Report