By Brenda Agba
Benue State has witnessed a steady decline in the prevalence of malaria within the current decade from a prevalence rate of 23 percent before 2018 to 12.8 percent, a drop of 10.2 percent based on the latest Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2020.
The state Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Joseph Ngbea, disclosed this recently while briefing journalists in his office on the 2021 World Malaria Day with the theme “Zero Malaria: Draw The Line Against Malaria.”
Represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Sir Andrew Amee, the commissioner explained that the World Malaria Day is marked to count the successes in the fight against the disease, highlight responsibility of government and the people towards enhancing it, as well as advocate for more commitment from political leaders to get the world close to zero malaria.
Speaking on the theme for this year’s World Malaria Day, Dr Ngbea said it seeks to explore and connect malaria elimination and malaria in high burden settings.
The commissioner, while recalling the serious challenges posed towards malaria responses worldwide following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, hailed the Benue State Government for maintaining essential health services, including malaria, as demonstrated through net campaigns as well as distribution of 3.6 million nets across the state, a move he noted was highly commanded by the Presidential Malaria Initiative (PMI).
On the ministry’s efforts towards ending malaria, the commissioner disclosed that recently, the ministry, in collaboration with USAID Breakthrough Action launched the School Malaria Social Behavioural Change Program (SMSBCP), targeting students who are great agents of change with a view to increase malaria knowledge in the young minds and encourage them to promote malaria prevention behaviours in their homes as the disease kills more than 400,000 people, mostly children, around the world annually.
Dr Ngbea who expressed appreciation to the Federal Government through its National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) and the Presidential Malaria Initiative (PMI), as well as USAID together with all the implementing partners, further commended the state Governor, Samuel Ortom, for prompt approval of counterpart funds for malaria campaign, as well as the state First Lady, Dr Eunice Ortom, the ‘Net Ambassador,’ for her continued support to the malaria program in the state.
“We look forward to seeing a day when we would celebrate a world free of malaria rather than marking World Malaria Day,” he stated.
Responding to the issue of malaria vaccine, the ministry’s Director for Public Health, Dr Terna Kur, who said Nigeria is lagging behind, due to inadequate funds, however, expressed optimism that it will soon be a thing of the past.