NMEP takes malaria fight to women’s August meeting

Dr. Ezeigwe

Dr. Ezeigwe

It is no longer news that Nigeria occupies the unenviable position of contributing 32 per cent of the global malaria burden, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The news perhaps is that the government of Nigeria and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partners have mobilized incredible amount of resources over the last decade and a half to confront the malaria scourge headlong.

Through this combined efforts, close to 100 million Long Lasting Insecticide treated Nets (LLINs) have been distributed in all States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) since 2009; Quality assured Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACTs) are increasingly more available in public health facilities as well as private outfits such as chemist shops and pharmacies; and Intermittent Preventive Treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SPs) have long been introduced to protect mothers and their unborn children from malaria.

It is however disheartening that the target population are not accessing these life-saving interventions optimally. Concerned by this situation, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partners have continued to seek innovative strategies to increase awareness and promote better uptake of preventive and treatment measures against the disease.

The overall objective is to reduce the burden of the disease and move the country towards malaria elimination. It was therefore not surprising when the National Coordinator, Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe mobilized her team and embarked on the flag ship project titled community sensitization for malaria prevention and treatment during the annual women convention popularly known as “August Meeting’’, in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones of the country.

This initiative, which was started in 2014 under the leadership of Dr. Ezeigwe, is premised on the recognition of women as change agents whose education and enlightenment is strategic in tackling the malaria burden in Nigeria. There was excitement in the several communities of the targeted region, including Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Ebonyi, Cross River and Imo States that benefited from this exercise during which critical information on malaria was disseminated among the women.

Community members were screened for malaria and those who tested positive were treated with ACTs. LLINs were given to the vulnerable members of the women group.

The National Coordinator led the team on Thursday August 13, 2015, to one of the communities, Umuakagu-Nsu, a town described by ancient historians as one of the cradles of South Eastern civilization.

It is a prominent community in Ehime-Mbano Local Government in the Okigwe Senatorial zone of Imo State. The women (Home and Abroad) turned out massively in their colourful uniform and waited to savor an afternoon that promised to move forward their community development agenda as well as a strong commitment to fight malaria to finish.

During the event, one of the key resource persons in the team, Dr. Victor Iwuagwu, gave the women the necessary tutorials needed to successfully combat Malaria in a typical urban or rural setting ranging from environmental cleanliness to regularly sleeping inside Long Lasting Insecticidal Treated bed nets, receiving Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT) by pregnant women, Test before treatment and use of Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACT) for treatment of confirmed Malaria cases. This was delivered in well-articulated vernacular to the amazement and admiration of the National Coordinator.

Addressing the women Ezeigwe reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to free Nigerians from malaria and noted that the road map to attain this, which is the National Malaria Strategic Plan 2014-2020 has roles for every one and requires the supportive collaboration of individuals and groups in the country.

She admonished the women to take their health and that of their children and husbands seriously, urging them to safeguard their nets and keep their environments clean.

Most importantly she encouraged the pregnant women to always register early for antenatal care (ANC) and attend clinics regularly to benefit from IPTp and ensure favourable pregnancy outcome.

She reiterated the need to test all cases of fever to confirm it is malaria before taking any drugs for malaria. Ezeigwe reminded the women that malaria is associated with poverty being a cause as well as a consequence.

She advised them to encourage their children/wards to learn skills that will enhance their employability or make them self-employed in the face of high level of unemployment in order to beat poverty and reduce malaria risk.

Ezeigwe poured encomium on the President General of Umuakagu Women, Home and Abroad, Mrs. Kate Oliver who she described as visionary and motivating the women to take giant developmental strides in the community.

The women who displayed uncommon joy and happiness to the admiration of all and sundry took turns to eulogize the National Malaria Elimination Programme for the gesture they described as the first of its kind in their community.

They prayed for sustained friendship and mutual harmony with the National Malaria Elimination Programme. Those in attendance included women at home and in the Diaspora, who were thrilled by NMEP’s commitment to grass root sensitization of women.

This unusual Malaria sensitization meeting at Umuakagu-Nsu will be remembered for a very long time by people of the community for all the glamour and impact it produced. NMEP heartily congratulates the UMUAKAGU women on the roaring success of the event.

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