NOISE OVER CORONAVIRUS, SILENCE OVER MALARIA
There is anxiety all over the world. There is panic. There is uncertainty. Many people are worried, troubled. They are afraid, fear. They are disturbed, apprehensive. These, as a result of a certain strange disease called Coronavirus, also called COVID-19, which is currently ravaging the world.
Coronavirus started in China, but is spreading like wild fire to many countries of the world, and in particular, Europe. People are told not to get into physical contact with other people in order not to contract the disease.
No more handshakes. No more kissing. Schools are closing down. Some people no longer go to Church or to Mosque, in order to avoid any physical contact with other people. Some people have been quarantined, while some others voluntarily go into self-isolation. Nobody wants to die, or to contract the disease.
Globally, many flights have been cancelled because some countries have placed ban on airlines from flying passengers into their countries. The world is now almost at a standstill. The economy has crashed.
On the positive side, however, some of our big men who used to travel overseas to access medical treatment have decided to stay put at home, to begin to manage their health with us here in the country.
In the same vein, European football marches, the opium of our youths, are postponed or cancelled. As a result, people who go out every night to watch football marches or to stake money on betting, now stay indoors. Everybody is coming back to his senses.
Latest report indicates that as at March 15, 2020, a total of 156,532 people had contracted Coronavirus worldwide, since the outbreak of the disease about three months ago. Out of this number, 5,835 deaths have been recorded, while 75,923 people have recovered. At present, 74,777 people are still infected with the disease, while 68,889 were in mid condition, 5,888 others were in serious or critical condition.
China leads the pack of those infected with Coronavirus with 80,824 cases, 3,197 deaths, and 66,911 recovered cases. Italy follows with 21,157 cases, 1,441 deaths, and 1,966 recovered cases. Iran has 12,729 cases, 611 deaths and 4,339 recovered cases, while South Korea has 8,162 cases, 75 deaths and 834 recovered cases.
Others are Spain, 6,391 cases, 196 deaths, 517 recovered cases; Germany, 4,599 cases, 9 deaths, 46 recovered cases; France, 4,469 cases, 91 deaths, 12 recovered cases; the United States of America, 2,736 cases, 57 deaths, 49 recovered cases, and down the line.
Sub Saharan Africa, however, appears to be immune with the disease because very few cases have so far been identified. Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, each has only two identified cases with no death, while Gabon, Kenya, Togo and Ethiopia, each has recorded only one case, also without any death.
But while the world is panicking, making noise about Coronavirus, and deploying all arsenal at their disposal to fight the disease, not much is being done to fight malaria, which has killed much more people worldwide, and particularly in Sub Saharan Africa, over the years.
According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, in 2018 alone, there is an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide, with over 93 per cent of the cases in Sub Saharan Africa. Compare this to the 156,532 cases of Coronavirus worldwide, since the outbreak of the disease three months ago.
Also while an estimated 405,000 people died of malaria in the same year, 2018, with Sub Saharan Africa recording about 94 per cent of the deaths, the number of people who died from Coronavirus since the outbreak of the disease, stands at 5,835.
Similarly, the Africa Malaria Report, released a decade ago by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), claimed that “the death toll from malaria remains outrageously high – with more than 3,000 African children dying daily”.
It further stated that “new effective anti-malaria drugs are not accessible to those who need them and that only a small proportion of children at risk of malaria are protected by highly effective insecticide treated nets”.
The report further stated that “an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s population – mostly those living in the world’s poorest countries – is at risk of contracting malaria. Malaria causes more than three hundred million acute illnesses and kills at least one million people every year. Ninety per cent of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa, south of the Sahara, and most deaths occur in children under the age of five.
“Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds, and remains one of the most important threats to the health of pregnant women and their newborns”, it concluded.
This time around, while Coronavirus has been declared a global emergency and $675 million provided to fight the disease and rehabilitate its victims, with Nigeria, which has only two cases, budgeting N620 million for Coronavirus, not much has been done to fight the malaria scourge, which is killing much more people, worldwide. I don’t even know whether Nigeria has any budgetary provision to fight malaria, which the WHO says, afflicts 1.5 million Nigerians every year.
Since we now know that Coronavirus is treatable, going by number of recovered cases as outlined above, we believe that it is also not beyond the capacity of the world community to equally wipe out mosquitoes completely, which are the main carriers of the malaria scourge, if they actually want to do do, and thus contain the malaria disease.
Thus, while we will be at alert and also in league with other countries to fight and prevent the spread of Coronavirus, we shall equally not lose sight to the most common diseases afflicting our own people, for which millions of our people die every year, which are malaria, diarrhea, measles, and extreme poverty.
Therefore, when they will be making noise about Coronavirus, we shall also be shouting on top of our voices about malaria, diarrhea, measles and poverty in our land, which are killing our own people, and invite the world community to come and help us fight these scourges.
Dr. Dons Eze.