Mosquito, the main transmitter of malaria, thrives in hot climate, particular in pools of stagnant water common in cities from Lagos to Port Harcourt and back up North to Kano and Yola in Africa’s most population of 201 million.
Malaria gets worse with inadequate medication and poor diet instigated by poverty, of which Nigeria has become the capital of the world, overtaking India that has more than six times its population.
The World Health Organization (WHO) gave the malaria data with a warning that the world is on the verge of a malaria crisis – apart from ravaging coronavirus that has upended life and killed more than five million across the world.
WHO disclosed in its latest report that Nigeria contributed the largest malaria deaths in 2020 both in Africa and globally.
It noted that coronavirus pandemic-related disruptions caused tens of thousands more deaths but said the virus has reversed progress against malaria, which was already reaching its plateau before the pandemic struck in March last year.
627,000 malaria deaths worldwide
“There were an estimated 241 million cases worldwide in 2020; 14 million more than a year earlier and the once rapidly falling death toll swelled to 627,000 last year, jumping 69,000 from 2019.
“Approximately, two thirds of those additional deaths were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic,” WHO said.
“Twenty-nine countries accounted for 96% of malaria deaths globally, and six countries – Nigeria (27%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12%), Uganda (5%), Mozambique (4%), Angola (3.4%) and Burkina Faso (3.4%) – accounted for about 55% of all cases globally in 2020.”
WHO noted that while Africa had a total 602,000 malaria deaths out of the estimated 627,000, Nigeria accounted for 31.9 per cent on the continent, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo with 13.2 per cent.
Damage wrought by coronavirus
WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said this year’s world malaria report surveys the extent of damage wrought by Covid on the global malaria response.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, global gains against malaria had levelled off,” he said.
“Thanks to the hard work of public health agencies in malaria-affected countries, the worst projections of COVID’s impact have not come to pass.
“Now, we need to harness that same energy and commitment to reverse the setbacks caused by the pandemic and step up the pace of progress against this disease.”
WHO Head of Global Malaria Programme Pedro Alonso said: “I think we are on the verge of a potential malaria crisis. Not only are we not getting closer to elimination or eradication globally, the problem is becoming worse in a substantial number of parts of Africa.
“The African region reported a greater percentage increase in the number of malaria cases than any region of the world.”