The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced plans to end malaria around the globe, more specifically in African countries, by 2030. The immensely ambitious “end malaria” drive is going to be a part of the recently launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN and it aims to reduce malaria and its effects by 90 percent over the next 15 years.
The battle against malaria in the world has gone on for decades. While many countries including Argentina, Costa Rica and Morocco have recorded complete victory over the disease, it appears that for countries like Nigeria and Angola, the end is not near just yet. For Angola, the malaria death toll continues to rise in comparison with results from previous years. The country has also been marked by WHO as “undergoing a health crisis,” but, the problem in Angola is very clear cut. There has been a record increase in the amount of rainfall over the land which has led to outbreaks of malaria, yellow fever and chronic diarrhoea. Also, the country suffered from budget cuts which resulted in uncollected garbage and this has been noted as a cause for the epidemic.
With about a 100million malaria cases and 300,000 deaths recorded annually, Nigeria has the highest number of malaria casualties worldwide despite spirited campaigns against the scourge. It is well known that the fight against malaria requires a lot of funds. Earlier in the week, the president of the Malaria Society of Nigeria, Dr. Babajide Puddicombe, stated that the fight against malaria in Nigeria can be won if there is an “adequate injection of funds” into the campaign. Recently, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria estimated that about $3.6 billion dollars was required to wipe out malaria in sub-Saharan Africa through malaria elimination programs over a period of time until the end of 2030.
Interestingly enough, the National Malaria Elimination Program in Nigeria costs an estimated 132 billion Naira ($600 million) annually and continues to receive regular funding from the government. The government spends an average of $2.8 billion dollars from the national budget on fighting malaria alone. A quick look at the national budget reveals that the country can afford to spend much more than it currently does on malaria elimination programs. Earlier in 2015, USAID spent about 15 billion Naira on malaria prevention. Yet, individual Nigerians still carry the burden of malaria treatments to an estimated tune of 480 billion Naira.
Although some progress has been recorded, it is a measly 18 percent reduction in number of casualties since 2008 while the rest of the world recorded improvements of at least 60 percent. There is only one question that arises: If money is not the hindrance to overcoming malaria in Nigeria, what then is the problem?
Like every other thing wrong in the country, the culprit is corruption. Although it can be said that money is not the problem, lack of actual funding of these programs is a big question. The allocation or availability of the money is not in issue; however, how do we know whether the money reaches its intended destinations or not?
Ventures Africa recently outlined ways for Nigeria to get rid of malaria and the first on the list is “a good health care system.” There are thousands of government hospitals in the country which are supposed to provide affordable healthcare to citizens but fail woefully in this regard. While there is a usually a lot of blame on the lack of government funding and corrupt hospital heads, there is also a general lackadaisical attitude on the part of the hospital staff. They contribute to the decay by converting the already severely limited quantities of public property (such as drugs or hospital materials) for profit or for personal use.
Dr. Puddicombe stated that there was a need for the government to build good drainage systems and ensure adequate power supply.“Poor power supply, pot holes in most of our roads, poor state of most of our environments and high level of poverty were some of the factors contributing to the malaria scourge,” he said.
These projects are so fundamental to good health in the society that it is nothing short of incredible that they do not exist in a country such as Nigeria. Annually, a huge chunk of the budget is allocated to building infrastructure, and yet these foundations do not exist.
Also, US Ambassador, Mr. James Entwistle, speculated that the high rate of malaria in Nigeria is as a result of the predominance of counterfeit drugs in the markets.
“Stolen malaria medicines often transported or stored in sub-optimal conditions, decay and become ineffective, putting patients at risk for treatment. Parasites, a by-product of this decay, cause malaria, potentially mutate, and grow resistant to the drug. Also, the production of counterfeit medicines takes money away from legitimate businesses and discourages growth in Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry, with a corresponding loss of goods and investment in the sector.”
The Nigerian healthcare system is plagued with the endless circulation of substandard or fake drugs by peddlers. An issue which reportedly has its roots in 1986, following former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s implementation of structural adjustment which saw the Nigerian economy – and the booming pharmaceutical business – take a fatal hit. But with a regulatory body like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in full control of the administration of food and drugs, one is left to wonder how so many fake drugs penetrate the market.
Early this year, the Joy Institute, a Nigerian non-governmental organisation, revealed that many doctors in Nigeria are victims of the operations of deceitful indigenous drug marketers, as well as their own inability to stay up-to-date with the latest global information on drugs. Thus, they go on to prescribe and administer medicines that have been banned in other parts of the world to their trustful patients
In light of these factors, it is not far-fetched to conclude that corruption in Nigeria has been an affront to the fundamental right to life – albeit indirectly – and has wreaked havoc on all other fundamental rights that are offshoots of the right to life.
The 2016 WHO report on World Malaria stated that reaching the goals of the “Global Technical Strategy” will require a steep increase in global and domestic funding—from $2.5 billion today to an estimated $8.7 billion annually by 2030. “Through robust financing and political will, affected countries can speed progress towards malaria elimination and contribute to the broader development agenda as laid out in the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” it read.
Indeed the plans are admirable, however, if Nigeria does not wage a fierce war on corruption, it is feared that these development goals might not be sustainable in a country that needs it the most.