April 25th is set aside by United Nation to mark the World Malaria day. Every year, Malaria is said to cost Africa an estimated $12 billion in lost productivity. Nigeria loses over N132 Billion, a figure that factors in costs of health care, absenteeism, days lost in education, decreased productivity due to brain damage from cerebral malaria, and loss of investment and tourism.
To help strengthen Nigeria’s health sector and to also achieve the National Malaria Elimination Programme’s (NMEP) goal of pre-elimination by 2020, ‘Dayo Oluwole writes an open letter of appeal to the Honorable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole.
Mrs. Oluwole was recently diagnosed of #severemalaria at the North Manchester Hospital and believes Nigeria’s health sector is far below global standard and practices. Tonaija.ng brings to you her story.
Dear Honourable Minister of Health,
I hope you are well. My name is Dayo Oluwole (@kasherltd), and I am one of your many followers on Twitter. You are (arguably) the most Twitter savvy Minister of Health that Nigeria has ever had. Your open lines of communication and responsiveness in dealing with issues on social media are highly commendable. Bravo!
The purpose of this is letter is an appeal to strengthen the existing health framework in Nigeria to ensure that malaria deaths are reduced. I am aware of all the work that is being done by the Ministry and funding partners to meet the 2020 target towards pre-elimination. As I have worked with NMEP and other incredible local and international partners in the demand generation space regarding malaria.
I am one of those rare and fortunate people that don’t get malaria. However, on a trip to the UK last month I felt tired. I did not consider this to be unusual or alarming. As I am in good health, eat well and keep fit; I put it down to work stress. When I arrived in the UK on 31 March, I noticed I had a slight fever; I took medication and went straight bed. I was fine on Saturday but by Sunday morning, I knew something was not quite right. I was admitted to a hospital in Blackpool on 1 of April, where I had tests and it was confirmed that I had malaria. At 1.00 am on 2 April I was moved to North Manchester Hospital’s Infectious Disease Unit.
While I am not a medical doctor, I have a good understanding of the first line treatment and was already wondering where the medication was going to come from. One of the registrars explained the treatment plan (which was available) and said that given my condition he wanted to repeat more tests. Within an hour tests came back at 4.6% parasitraemia. According to the UK guidelines 3% was considered severe.
I realized I was extremely unwell, however, I felt completely ‘safe’ in the hands of the unit’s team, not that I had much choice at the time. During the 4 days at North Manchester hospital, the doctors and nurses focused on my clinical care and ensured that I was able to leave the hospital with 0.01% parasitraemia on the 5th of April. I have never seen such an incredible team of people!
I am unsure if severe malaria would have been picked up in Nigeria, especially given the average Nigerian’s aversion to testing before treatment and our preference to self medicate. My blood pressure became dangerously low, blood sugar levels dropped and there were concerns of a build-up of fluid on my lungs. If I was in Nigeria, I would have been given medication and sent home. Because malaria is not viewed as the deadly disease it is!
If, in line with “World Malaria Day” 2017’s theme we want to end malaria for good, can you PLEASE continue to ensure that policies that support testing before treatment are adhered to in Nigeria? Can you also continue with your strategic plan and ensure that Primary Health Centres are equipped with the much needed laboratory resources to provide malaria tests in a timely manner?
I don’t pretend to begin to imagine the complexities that will go into taking action in respect of my appeal, but I feel compelled to share my story in the interest and welfare of my fellow Nigerians. I believe that it should be everyone’s collective responsibility to ensure that the number of deaths from malaria (especially infants and children) are significantly reduced. At the Manchester hospital, I asked one of the nurses about malaria related deaths in the unit, she said that she has been working there for 15 years and she was not aware of anyone ever dying from malaria.
Granted, North Manchester Hospital doesn’t see anything near as many malaria cases as in Nigeria and I am not making any comparisons with the UK health system and ours, but can you as the ‘Doctor of the People’, lead the charge where we commit to not losing anymore Nigerians to malaria?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, but more importantly for hopefully taking the necessary next steps to reduce deaths from malaria.
I am making this appeal on bended knees in line with our Yoruba culture, when addressing our elders!
Once again, thank you for your attention in this matter.