Institute laments poor funding for malaria research
Head Malaria Research Group, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Dr. Samson Awolola has reiterated how lack of research funding in the country is affecting the roll out of malaria interventions and others.
According to him, although there has been improvement in malaria interventions, but the parasites indices remain high and that shows how far Nigeria is from elimination.
He noted that if nothing is done, many of the gains and progress made in the field of malaria research and control will be lost, as “defeating malaria today is investing in our tomorrow.”
He cited the instance where NIMR had to drop a research work on the characterization of sites for malaria test vaccines due to lack of funds, saying vaccines cant just be brought into the country without testing them.
We cannot equally develop vaccines without research, because it is research that develops vaccines, and if money is not invested, how do we get results.
“Nigeria has a vaccine laboratory in NIMR, but how much of funding goes in there and what have we achieve in the last couple of years, he lamented.
Awolola explained; “research has a key role to play in the quest towards malaria elimination, as findings from research works are needed to guide policies, yet very little is done by government to improve on research funding.”
Research he said is not a jamboree because it requires the right infrastructure, human capacity and the right environment so unless government investments properly in it, “our health research institutions will remain what they are.”
He told The Guardian that though he can no give figures on government support, but “for the last five years I have been the head of the malaria department, I can tell you Research funding has been very poor, not only malaria research, but generally.”
He stressed the need to accord the importance of research in developments, “we are in a country where research is not recognized,” he added.
The malaria group boss pointed out that external bodies fund most research in Nigeria, “when foreigners fund research they want their results and this affects us negatively,”
“And as long as our researches and interventions are donor driven, he that pays the piper dictates the tunes,” he expressed.
He however urged government to own research in the country by commissioning government-funded projects where local intent would be taken care of to help tackle some of the problem in malaria control.
Addressing this year’s World Malaria Day theme, “End Malaria For Good” in the Nigerian context, the Nigerian WHO representative, Dr. Tolu Arowolo told journalist that malaria eradication is possible in Nigeria, “we have tools, interventions and strategies like our malaria strategic plan which targets pre elimination in the country by 2020 through deploying all the current evident based interventions to scale.
In the same vein, Arowolo noted; “we are also seeking to increase generation of funds to be able to conduct research as well as put in place good accountability mechanism in place to coordinate the plan.”
Arowolo stated that new studies about insecticide and drug resistance are ongoing since its been constantly reported that mosquitoes are getting resistant to them.
She identified the challenge of people not using interventions like the long lasting mosquito nets due to epileptic power supply as studies has shown.
Asked about the specific death rate of malaria in Nigeria, she responded saying, “surprisingly for Nigeria we have not been having good data, in fact many people don’t believe malaria can kill so it is rare to see malaria as cause of death.
She therefore urged health workers not to hesitate to write malaria, as cause of death when it is for it is important for data accumulation.