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Malaria deaths could surge due to COVID-19 if not checked – Nigerian govt

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The National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) has warned that malaria deaths could double in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2020 if prevention and treatment interruptions due to COVID-19 continue.

The NMEP National Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Audu Mohammed, who gave the warning, said there had been a reduction in malaria prevalence from 42 per cent to 23 per cent according to an NDHS research in 2018.

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But he fears that the COVID-19 outbreak has jeopardised the progress made and caused a spike in the 38% reduction of mortality rates already achieved in 2018.

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He said ‘‘with the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic the malaria challenge seems to be compounded. A lot still needs to improve, as we are not close to most of the targets we had set out to achieve in our current malaria strategic plan’’

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“Recent projections suggest that where most prevention activities are cancelled or delayed, and malaria services like insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to anti-malaria medicines experience severe disruption, then malaria deaths in Sub-Sahara Africa could double by the end of 2020’’.

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“Under the worst-case scenario presented in an analysis that was done, the death toll in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would exceed the total number of malaria deaths reported globally in the year 2000,” said Audu.

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Dr. Audu further warned that Nigeria must minimize disruptions in treatment and prevention of malaria during the COVID-19 response given that failure to do so could lead to catastrophic loss of life.

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He, however, says there are concerns by community members seeking healthcare, given that COVID-19 entry symptoms are same as those of malaria, coupled with delays at health facilities, and the stigmatization of COVID-19 patients.

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The federal government health agency says due to the new challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak, it is now prioritizing interventions, streamlining campaign activities for insecticide-treated nets and increasing prompt diagnostic testing and treatment.

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