His Excellency, Alhaji Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar, Executive Governor of Zamfara State; The Honorable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Foundation and Malaria Private Sector Ambassador; and Dr. Audu Bala Mohammed, National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Program. Ladies, Gentlemen and members of the press, good morning and thank you for coming to this important event.
I am pleased to be here today to commemorate World Malaria Day, 2017. Tomorrow, April 25, people across the world, will lend their voices and renew commitments as part of global events to control malaria. We stand committed to the global movement to end malaria for good – and we will do this by reminding ourselves of our individual and collective roles to make this happen.
Ending malaria in Nigeria will prevent more than 80 million illnesses and more than 300,000 related deaths annually. Ending malaria will increase school attendance, boost worker productivity and significantly lower out-of-pocket cost for treatment. This is why malaria prevention and control remain a major U.S. foreign assistance objective. In Nigeria, the annual U.S. government funding for malaria has been $75 million annually for the last four years.
In 2015, Nigeria adopted the “test, treat and track” (T3) strategy. This means that every person with fever should first test to confirm whether the fever is a result of malaria before taking drugs. If malaria is confirmed, individuals should begin prompt treatment with Artemisinin Based Combination Therapy (ACT) medication. Finally, it is important to follow up to ensure drugs are taken correctly. I call upon everyone to play their part in eliminating malaria in Nigeria by first testing before treatment, and by taking the recommended high quality malaria drugs.
Malaria is tested with a Rapid Diagnostic Test which is easy to use. It requires a little finger prick and takes only 15 minutes to produce a result. I invite you to visit booths to see how this simple testing process works and samples of high quality malaria drugs.
To highlight the importance of the “test before treatment” approach to malaria management, I will like to share the story of Vera. Vera is a 32 year old mother of three. Her 2 year old son Oneya came down with a fever three weeks ago. Vera’s husband, James, advised her to buy drugs from the chemist down the road. Vera administered antimalarial and pain relief drugs for three days and Oneya felt better. One week ago, Oneya relapsed. When Vera and James finally took Oneya to the clinic, he was diagnosed of typhoid fever. Oneya didn’t make it – he died three days ago.
Almost every child and many adult disease condition starts with a fever. When you assume that every fever is malaria, you may allow a different condition to fester by delaying the proper treatment. You increase the financial cost of treatment and decrease chances of survival. If the clinic had tested Oneya when his parents detected the fever, he would have received proper treatment for typhoid, and be alive today.
Ending malaria for good in Nigeria is achievable if we all play our individual and collective roles. Remember, malaria is preventable – ensure that you and all members of your household sleep under a treated bed net every night. This keeps mosquitos away, reducing incidence of malaria fever and keeps everyone healthy, happy and productive. Malaria is diagnosable; always demand a malaria diagnostic test before accepting treatment. Malaria is treatable. Once a fever is confirmed to be malaria, Artemisinin Based Combination Therapy or ACTs are the ONLY effective treatment. Take the complete course of ACT drugs as prescribed. Do not use counterfeit or substandard drugs like Chloroquine: they do not cure malaria.
Since 2011, the U.S. Government has procured over 23 million bed nets for Nigeria. Today, on behalf of the U.S. Government, I am pleased to hand over long lasting bed nets to our dear colleagues and friends who keep our environments clean and beautiful. The nets are enough to provide protection against malaria for them and their families. I appeal to everyone here to use protective measures to prevent malaria.