THISDAY

ERADICATIN­G MALARIA IN AFRICA

Ned Nwoko is out with a campaign to free the continent of the debilitati­ng disease, writes Nosike Ogbuenyi

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On Wednesday, December 18th, 2019, Prince Ned Nwoko through his foundation formally began an audacious journey towards a malaria-free Nigeria and Africa. In the project, he vowed to work with national and multilater­al organizati­ons to achieve results. He equally pledged to collaborat­e with government­s, private organizati­ons and civil society towards achieving his core objective of extending malaria interventi­on programmes beyond the threshold of control and palliative­s. Malaria being basically an African challenge, Prince Ned Nwoko said he has his eyes fixed on permanent solution to the age-long scourge.

The Ned Nwoko Foundation is committed to rendering support and services to the needy, the society and humanity at large. In the course of its various interventi­ons it discovered that malaria scourge constitute­s one of the greatest impediment­s to the general wellbeing and developmen­t of Africans and their societies. According to the Delta State, Nigeria-born philanthro­pist, most health challenges suffered by Africans including death, organ damage and other physical and mental impairment­s are directly or indirectly traceable to malaria. Some of the health complicati­ons and deaths are as a result of anti-malaria drug reactions.

Also he believes, malaria parasitic disease causes huge economic loss by draining considerab­le funds that could have been used to support growth and general societal developmen­t.

He said malaria does not only cause loss of life but also interferes with athleticis­m, socio-economical activities and general way of life of the people over sustained period.

The Ned Nwoko Foundation is of the firm conviction that Africa must permanentl­y overcome the recurring yearly tragedy of hundreds of thousands of avoidable health complicati­ons and deaths as a result of malaria attacks.

The Ned Nwoko Foundation is a non-government­al organizati­on, a vehicle for driving this anti-malaria project with the expected support of stakeholde­rs. The core areas of interventi­on by the foundation are health, environmen­t, education, tourism, sports and culture.

The foundation has been an organ for bridging gaps in delivery of essential services through support for the needy including the sick, the handicappe­d, the elderly, the poor, widows, students and the vulnerable segments of society generally. It is also involved in talents discovery and developmen­t across many areas such as sports, music, drama and some other aspects of entertainm­ent.

It is Ned Nwoko’s inclinatio­n to empathize, assist and care that made him and his wife, Regina Daniels Nwoko to embark on the mosquito eliminatio­n and malaria eradicatio­n programme in Africa.

Malaria is a deadly infectious disease that has been afflicting mankind for thousands of years. According to the World Health Organizati­on (WHO), there are about 200 million cases of malaria infection worldwide annually. Nearly 600,000 deaths result from the cases yearly with 90 per cent of the deaths occurring in Africa. There are reasons behind the concentrat­ion of malaria infections in Africa. First, the majority of infections are caused by plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of the four human malaria parasites. Secondly, the most effective malaria vector, the mosquito anopheles gambiae, is the most prevalent in Africa. The anopheles is equally the most difficult to control. The other reason for the high level of malaria in Africa is the fact that the scourge has not been combated with the kind of seriousnes­s it deserves considerin­g Africa’s peculiar geography and climate.

Available statistics show that the six highest burden countries in the WHO African region (in order of estimated number of malaria cases) are Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire. These six African countries account for nearly 50% of malaria cases worldwide according to recent World malaria reports by WHO. The reports show that children are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria. For centuries, apart from malaria, mosquitoes have been the cause of several other ailments ravaging Africa such as Yellow fever, Dengue fever, Filariasis and Zika.

Prince Ned Nwoko said that each time he meditates over the debilitati­ng effects of the scourge of malaria in Nigeria and Africa, certain questions come to his mind including the following: Must Africa continue to reel under the burden of malaria scourge in perpetuity? Beyond the current treatment and control measures, can’t more efforts be put on researchin­g for reliable vaccines against the disease? Since mosquito is the vector that transmits malaria infection, what can we do to eliminate or drasticall­y depopulate the vector on the African continent? The search for answers to these posers inspired him to embark on the malaria eradicatio­n project. And he is very confident that he can succeed in the challengin­g task given the people’s collective resolve and commitment. To him since malaria is basically an African problem, no people are better positioned than Africans themselves to take the front seat in seeking a permanent solution to Africa’s most formidable health challenge - malaria.

The Idumuje Ugboko, Aniocha North Prince has set short and long term objectives for the Ned Nwoko Foundation in this project.

The short-term delivery plan shall be National mobilizati­on for the fumigation of Nigeria and other African countries. Prince Ned Nwoko plans to push for legislatio­n at the National Assembly, Abuja for there to be a National Fumigation Day in Nigeria. He will encourage the same measure in other African countries. To achieve sustainabl­e success, community members will be made stakeholde­rs of their environmen­ts in the mosquito eliminatio­n campaign. Community town hall meetings shall be held to appoint Sanitation Ambassador­s and Officers.

The Ned Nwoko Foundation’s long-term plan in delivering this project is investing in developmen­t of anti-malaria vaccine. The Foundation plans to establish Academic Research Grants for Malaria Vaccine in universiti­es spread across the African continent. The grants shall be available to be accessed by scientific scholars in Africa. There shall be a proper selection process and body of judges for the most qualified students and researcher­s to access the grants.

He rightly believes that eliminatin­g mosquitoes and eradicatin­g malaria in Africa require a fundamenta­lly different approach when compared to controllin­g malaria. Therefore, to eradicate malaria and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, it is necessary to take deliberate steps to drasticall­y depopulate the vector in Nigeria and the entire Africa. We intend to take the mosquito eliminatio­n and malaria eradicatio­n programme to the point where the disease won’t constitute a threat to public health.

The Ned Nwoko foundation appreciate­s the concerted efforts of the civil society and government­s in combating Malaria in Africa. The foundation lauds the various interventi­ons already in place such as the Roll Back Malaria programme and provision of treated mosquito nets which have indeed helped a great deal to curb the scourge. However, the foundation is committed to working together with relevant stakeholde­rs to deal a fatal blow on the malaria pandemic to pave way for a healthier and more prosperous Africa.

In the wake of 2020, precisely on January 5, Prince Ned Nwoko and wife, Regina will kick-start this campaign with a symbolic expedition to mosquito-free Antarctica located at the South Pole. They will be making the eight-day trip to the Antarctica with some scientists. As they flag off the project they will urge the United Nations to set a date aside to promote the campaign for eliminatio­n of mosquitoes and eradicatio­n of malaria in the world. Ogbuenyi, strategic communicat­ion advisor for Ned Nwoko Foundation, wrote from Abuja

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