Heritage Bank Plc has joined the world to commemorate the 2020 World Malaria Day, amid fears that paying much emphasis on the novel Coronavirus Pandemic could reinforce progress on the mosquito-borne disease, especially in Africa.
The theme of the World Malaria Day 2020, is entitled, “Zero Malaria Starts with Me,” which is a grassroots campaign, first launched in Senegal in 2014. In canvassing for fight against the malaria scourge and calling on all stakeholders to take proactive action in renewing their focus on eliminating malaria by 2030 as targeted by World Health Organisation, the MD/CEO of the bank, Ifie Sekibo said that zero malaria starts with every one of us working together for a more prosperous and healthy future for all. This call is coming against the backdrop of the global rise in malaria cases with the recent warning by WHO that the number of deaths caused by malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa could double to 769,000 this year, as efforts to curb the disease are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to WHO, in 2018, there were 213 million malaria cases and 360,000 related deaths in the African region, accounting for over 90 per cent of global cases. The WHO said if the focus on slowing the spread of the new virus leads to a reduction by three quarters of access to anti-malaria medicines, deaths could double to 769,000. “Countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimise disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the WHO said in a statement. It further alarmed that the doubling of the number of deaths represents the worst case scenario, which also assumes the suspension of all distribution of treated mosquito nets due to the pandemic.
However, Sekibo stated that malaria in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has been an unceasing prevalence and dilemma for communities, posing a challenge that has made eradication seem almost impossible. In his call for collaboration to eliminate the disease in various society, Sekibo emphasized that to attain the global targets on malaria and the goals of Nigeria’s national malaria tactical plan would only be feasible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. Sekibo stated that as part of the bank drive to support the fight against malaria, Heritage Bank proposes to focus on how malaria makes people susceptible to the present pandemic (COVID-19) in the world, whilst sensitizing the public on its social media platforms on COVID-19 as it relates to malaria.
He further hinted that the overly concerns of exposure to COVID-19, as malaria and the virus have some symptoms in common which includes fever, headache and body pain, hence measures normally taken for malaria interventions have been suspended, which leaves vulnerable population (pregnant women and children) at a greater risk of contracting it. Sekibo stressed that early detection of malaria and proper management will reduce the mortality risk associated with COVID-19, whilst noting that community sensitization and mobilization around the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria is of great importance.