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Deaths from malaria reduced by 37% worldwide —Expert

A malaria control expert, Dr Abraham Mnzavan, has said that world over, malaria case incidence and deaths rate have reduced by 37 per cent between 2000 and 2015.

Mnzavan, a former Coordinator, Entomology and Vector Control unit of the World Health Global Malaria Programme, spoke at the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association’s third annual conference in Lagos.

The expert linked the recent global reduction in malaria mortality and morbidity partly to the massive scale-up of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN) and indoor residual spraying.

According to Mnzavan, the proportion of children under five sleeping under  ITN had increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from less than two per cent in 2000 to an estimated 68 per cent in 2015.

Mnzavan, however, described malaria as one of the vector-borne diseases that still account for 22 per cent of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases that claim more than 700,000 lives every year.

According to him, vector-borne diseases, including diseases like Zika, Dengue fever, yellow fever and Chikungunya, still exert an enormous toll on affected communities and economies.

He declared that factors such as increased global travel and trade, urbanisation, climate change, and natural or man-made emergencies had continually contributed to the emergence and re-emergence of many vector-borne diseases.

Controlling vectors that spread diseases, he said, was faced with such challenges as critical lack of human and infrastructural capabilities, shortage of resources to gather entomological information to guide vector control, biological threats, insecticide resistance and fragmented global architecture in vector control.

The expert, however, warned against scaling back on vector control programmes, saying that universal coverage with effective malaria vector control of all persons in areas of malaria transmission should be pursued and maintained.

In controlling vector-borne diseases, Mnzavan said countries and partners should invest in health system; particularly the strengthening of disease and entomological surveillance, as timely detection and appropriate response to resurgence depends on this capacity.

In addition, he stated that there was the need for new vector control tools, because insecticide resistance had increased, both in distribution and intensity.

According to him, “building such capacity is key to rolling out new vector control tools to address insecticide resistance and other threats i.e. outdoor malaria transmission”

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, described mosquitoes as the deadliest animal family in the world, adding that malaria is responsible for more than 70 per cent of outpatient attendance in Lagos State public health facilities.

He stated that over the years Lagos government had demonstrated its commitment to the control of mosquitoes through a multi-prong approach, including distribution of ITN for free, indoor residual spraying and environmental management.

Earlier, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, speaking through the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMER), Professor Babatunde Salako, had challenged the group to come up with innovations on mosquito control and research finding that could influence Nigeria’s policy thrust on vector borne disease control.