By Oswald Agwu
Malaria has been indicated as an underlining sickness capable of predisposing one to Coronavirus infection and its accompanying complications.
The Ebonyi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike gave the indication on Saturday while briefing newsmen in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, in commemoration of this year’s World Malaria day.
Umezurike who acknowledged the enormous challenges posed to the entire world by the COVID-19 pandemic and malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, noted that such strengthens the fact that all should observe basic environmental sanitation and faithful personal hygiene.
He stressed that malaria was still a public health problem in Nigeria in general and Ebonyi State in particular, accounting for over 60 percent of hospital attendance, a major cause of morbidity in pregnant women and children under five years.
He added that malaria over the years have been responsible for over 350,000 deaths per anum in sub-Saharan Africa, and according to World Health Organisation, kills over one million people a year.
Umezurike emphasized that in spite of some similarities in symptoms, Coronavirus infection and Malaria have different causative agents, and advised people to always confirm if their fever is malaria by getting tested.
He maintained that malaria treatment without sleeping inside insecticidal treated net was counter productive, and a great hinderance to winning the war against malaria.
While paying tribute to Breakthrough Action, Nigeria and other partners such as WHO, USAID, TIPTOP -jhpiego, UNICEF and AMURT for their invaluable supports, the Commissioner lauded Governor David Umahi for his numerous achievements in the area of healthcare provision in general and malaria control in particular.
He stated that apart from ensuring an informed budget line and release for malaria control activities of the state and local government area’s estimates, among other things, the state government provides cash contributions and enabling policies and environment to attract more donor support to malaria and other health programmes.
According to him, such efforts by government have resulted to more effective and efficient State Malaria Program and gradual reduction of the burden of malaria in the State.
Umezurike emphasized: “The causative organism for malaria is the plasmodium which is transmitted by mosquito.
“What treatment does is to suppress the actions of the plasmodium.
“If you treat malaria and expose yourself to mosquitoes, after sometime, the malaria will come back.
“So, the most important thing is that while treating yourself, sleep inside mosquito treated net…
“For the COVID-19, as in other infectious diseases, the strength of one’s immunity determines the person’s vulnerability.
“You can see that some people can be exposed to certain diseases and will not even come down with it.
“But some other people, maybe they have underlining malaria in their system, once they are exposed to the same thing, they will easily catch it. So, malaria affects the COVID-19 infection.”
In a goodwill message, a representative of Breakthrough Action-Nigeria, Chidinma Ukoha, explained that apart from other interventions, the group has made tremendous achievements in media capacity building, sensitization and campaigns for compliance to right use of LLIN and other safe behaviours for malaria elimination.
Goodwill messages were also received from AMURT, TIPTOP-Jhpiego, among others.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” with an underlying slogan: “Confirm if your fever is Malaria – get tested.”
Meanwhile the meeting maintained the highest degree of social distancing and other COVID-19 precautionary measures.