Herbal concoctions as alternative medicine for malaria treatment, driving spike in kidney failure- Expert

As the 2024 World Malaria Day is marked globally, government at all levels have been called upon to intervene in making the cost of malaria treatment very affordable, especially at the lowest level of healthcare delivery.

World Malaria Day, an international observance, is celebrated every 25th of April, to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize additional resources, and empower communities to effectively battle the burden of malaria.

In most primary health centres in Anambra State, which serve the very poor people at the grassroots, treatment for malaria costs as high as N10,000, while other secondary facilities are much more higher.
According to Dennis Aribodor, a Professor of Public Health Parasitology at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, this development would increase malaria burden in Nigeria, with citizens seeking alternative treatment measures.

“The unfortunate situation today is that malaria treatment has gone beyond the reach of the average Nigerian, costing over ten thousand Naira (N10,00) for quality treatment.

“The depreciation of the Naira with consequent current inflation is dealing a terrible blow to malaria control.

“The implication is that malaria burden in Nigeria will definitely increase as citizen resort to herbal treatment with attendant consequences.
“The morbidity and mortality associated with the disease will definitely rise and this is not a good news for the country.

“According to some paediatricians, the use of herbal treatment for malaria is increasing the problem of kidney failure. This may not be peculiar to only children as adults also engage in the use of unregulated herbal medicines mainly because of poverty,” he revealed.

Noting that Malaria remains the most important public health parasitic disease both in Nigeria and the world, Prof Aribodor noted that Nigeria, unfortunately, has the highest malaria burden in the world at over 30% of the global burden, with children under the age of 5 years and pregnant women being the most vulnerable groups for the disease.

“According to the 2023 World Malaria Report published by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), one out of every three deaths from malaria in the world occurs in Nigeria, and 22 persons die every one hour due to malaria in Nigeria.

“Malaria is both a preventable and treatable disease caused by parasites known as Plasmodium with Plasmodium falciparum being the dangerous of the malaria parasites.
“Malaria parasites are transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, the malaria vectors. Mosquitoes themselves are infected by the environment especially humans. No mosquito is born with malaria parasite.

“The 2023 World Malaria Report puts the global malaria cases stood at 249 million with over 600 deaths.
“Since the discovery of the malaria parasite in 1880 in Algeria and its transmission by mosquitoes in 1887, several efforts have been made to control and eliminate the ancient scourge in the world.

“These efforts involves various vector and parasite control strategies. Current tools available for the control of malaria vectors include sleeping inside long lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs), spraying inside of residential houses with indoor residual spraying, larval control through various strategies including larval source management and environmental control among others. The control of malaria parasites involves the use of various antimalarial medicines both for preventive and curative treatment.

“The preventive treatment of malaria for children involves seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) and intermittent preventive treatment in infants (IPTi); that for pregnant women involves the use of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy popularly called IPTp.

“The current drug of choice for the treatment of malaria is the artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Various brands of ACT exist in the market but should be taken under medical advice to avoid the problem of drug resistance which compromised the use of the once almighty chloroquine,” he said.

Aribodor, who is a fellow of Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria, regretted that with all these available tools for the control and elimination of malaria, it is surprising that malaria still kills Nigerians.
He advised the government to consider free treatment or subsidy on the treatment, which is most commonly-suffered, due to the nature of the environment in the communities.

Aribodor added: “Both federal and state governments need to intervene to ensure affordable, if not free, malaria treatment and services. Many antimalarial tools are available and should be massively deployed for malaria control and elimination in Nigeria.

“It therefore becomes imperative to urge community leaders, local government chairmen, state governors, and the Nigerian President to summon the political will to eliminate Malaria from our territories.

“It is both doable and achievable. Timelines should be set, technical committees and working groups constituted, civil society organisations and other stakeholders engaged and mobilized for the all important project.

“With the required political will and mobilisation of needed human and financial resources, malaria elimination can be achieved in Nigeria before the year 2030.”

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