Behaviour Change And Environmental Management Now Key To Malaria Fight—Global Fund Partners
Efforts to change behaviours and attitudes towards malaria would be a key driver of the malaria fight in Nigeria from 2017, according to Global Fund implementation partners in Nigeria, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) and the Society for Family Health (SFH).
The new strategic thrust would complement the existing strategy of providing preventive and curative products and services to ensure Nigeria attains pre-elimination status by 2020.
Malaria continues to be a major public health problem in Nigeria, as it remains “a leading cause of death for under-five children, snuffing out the lives of about 30 children every 60 minutes”, according to Dr. Audu Bala Mohammed, national coordinator of the NMEP.
Speaking to title editors of national newspapers as well as editors of online publications, Dr. Mohammed said the situation “shows the need to step up malaria awareness creation and bring malaria to public prominence.” NMEP and SFH are thus “stepping up efforts to use every available platform to increase the visibility of malaria and also work in close collaboration with the media in showcasing available malaria interventions in the country.”
As part of the effort, the Society for Family Health launched on November 25 Free to Live, a new Super Story TV drama series in conjunction with Wale Adenuga Productions TV.
An essential part of the behaviour change anticipated is for corporate bodies to join the malaria fight through sponsorship of preventive and environmental management programmes to eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes in the course of their CSR efforts.
Other interventions, according to Mrs. Mopelola Raji, Program Manager Global Fund at Society for Family Health, include dramatization by community-based organisations, awareness talks at the community level, house to house interpersonal communication and airing of radio drama in English and Nigerian languages. There would also be radio health talks and other mid mass media platforms such as billboards, pamphlets, and commercials on radio and television.
The challenging behaviours for which they seek change include citizens not sleeping inside Insecticide Treated Nets consistently or at all, wrongful use of the nets for gardening or fishing, treatment of malaria without testing, use of monotherapies rather than Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) and low adherence to malaria rapid diagnostic test results.
They called for active involvement of the media in the fight against malaria through prioritizing stories on the disease, storifying and not treating malaria as commonplace, given the threat, it continues to pose to citizens.
Nigeria seeks to attain pre-elimination status with malaria in the next four years up to 2020. In that period, the partners say the objective is to provide 80% of the population with appropriate preventive measures and “ensure the timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention and treatment of malaria in Nigeria wherever they are needed by 2018 and sustained through to 2020”.
Africa bears the global burden of malaria, accounting for 80% of the 214 million new cases the World Health Organisation recorded in 2015. There were an estimated 438, 000 deaths in 2015. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo share about 41% of the malaria burden in Africa.
Dr. Godwin Ntadom of the NMEP said that while increased prevention and control measures “are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places,” Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated the least commitment due to ignorance (causes and how to prevent malaria); Inadequate resources; weak political commitment and poor communication.