Draft Nigeria 2013 DHS Shows Slow Progress for Malaria

The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2013 Draft Preliminary Report from the National Population Commission, Abuja, Nigeria and MEASURE DHS, ICF International, Calverton, Maryland, USA was released in-country in September 2013. These are the same organizations that conducted the 2010 Malaria Information Survey (MIS).

From the malaria perspective this has been a long anticipated event since the country has distributed over 60 million long lasting insecticide-treated nets since 2009. The 2010 MIS showed some progress over the 2008 DHS, but since it took place near the beginning of the massive net distribution effort, there was hope that a subsequent survey would highlight an improvement. If that were the expectation, people will be quite disappointed.

Lets start with nets. Our attached table shows only a slight improvement in the proportion of households owning at least one net.  The idea behind the massive net campaigns from 2009-12 were achievement of universal coverage where there would be at least one net for every two people in a household.  Where did these nets go? Were they damaged beyond use in the relatively short time that elapsed?

Nigeria MIS 2010 vs DHS 2013 MalariaWhat is more disappointing is that th proportion of young children and pregnant women sleeping under an insecticide treated net (ITN) reduced to just slightly over half of the 2010 figure. This reduction also happened even in households that actually owned ITNs. This is mysterious to say the least.

Prevention of malaria in pregnancy has been a neglected part of malaria control in many countries, but since the drug used for intermittent preventive treatment (IPT), sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is so cheap, it was assumed that most health systems could afford to guarantee every woman attending antenatal care the required dosed.  Unfortunately the status of IPT showed almost no improvement between 2010 and 2013 and remained far, far below the 2010 Roll Back Malaria target of 80% coverage.  SP is produced in Nigeria; why can it not reach pregnant women?

Finally appropriate malaria treatment of young children is also in the doldrums. The actual number of children who received any anti-malarial drug declined, while those receiving the appropriate artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) remained essentially level at around 6%.  Where have all the ACTs brought in through Global Fund, the US President’s Malaria Initiative and other donors gone? How can we expect infant and child mortality to decrease in the absence of appropriate treatment for one of the most common child killer diseases?

At the recently concluded 6th Pan African Malaria Conference in Durban, South Africa, participants were told that the only way to truly eliminate malaria is to tackle the high burden countries like Nigeria head on.  If these data indicate how we are waging the malaria battle in Nigeria, our hopes for elimination in the near future will be dashed.

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