To eliminate incidence of malaria in pregnancy and its adverse effects on unborn babies, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), has partnered the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) to tackle the scourge in Nigeria.
NMEP urged HEWAN to step up awareness on the dangers of malaria in pregnancy by constantly reminding pregnant women of the importance of early antenatal registration and the need to take, at least, three doses of Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine (SP), an Intermittent Preventive Therapy (IPT) to prevent malaria.
According to statistics from NMEP, malaria is responsible for 60 percent of outpatient visits to health facilities, 30 percent of childhood deaths, 25 percent of deaths in children under one year, and 11 percent of maternal deaths.
Mohammed, who was represented by Head of Integrated Vector Management, NMEP, Dr Joel Akilah, said increasing the awareness on SP intake to prevent malaria in pregnancy has become critically important because the pregnant woman and her unborn child are most at risk of dying from the disease.
He explained that attending Antenatal Care (ANC) early and regularly helps prevent complications during pregnancy and stressed that SP is the recommended medicine for malaria prevention for pregnant women.
“SP is safe for the pregnant woman and her unborn child and should be taken as Direct Observed Therapy (DOT) in the presence of health personnel.
“At least, three doses of SP during the period of pregnancy is recommended for pregnant woman and each dose should be taken one month apart,” he said.
Akilah revealed that malaria is a major public health concern in Nigeria. “Over 90 per cent of Nigerians are at risk of malaria while children under five and pregnant women are seen to be more vulnerable to this disease, hence the focus of this discussion.”
Head of Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilisation, NMEP, Mrs Itohowo Uko, said malaria in pregnancy has grave consequences – especially as it accounts for 11 percent of maternal deaths. “Malaria in pregnancy can occur with or without symptoms; it can cause anaemia, lead to miscarriages, still births, pre-term and low birth weight babies and in unfortunate situations, death’’, she said.
Uko informed that NMEP has a prevention of malaria in Pregnancy (MIP) strategy such, as regular and appropriate use of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINs) in addition to early diagnosis and prompt treatment of malaria in pregnant women.
Speaking also at the occasion, Dr. Tolu Arowolo of the World Health Organisation (WHO), reiterated the need for early Antenatal Care.
According to her, booking and administering of IPT are critical in preventing malaria during pregnancy. “IPT is based on the assumption that every pregnant woman living in an area of high malaria transmission has malaria in her blood stream or placenta, whether or not she has symptoms of malaria,” she emphasised.
In her remarks, HEWAN’s President, Mrs Chioma Obinna, commended NMEP for its strategic policies and activities toward elimination of malaria in the country. “It is important that NMEP is collaborating with the media in the fight to eliminate malaria because the media has the power to reach out to the masses.
“With this collaboration, there will be smoother synergy in getting the right information and perspective on issues relating to malaria from the right sources, for onward
dissemination to Nigerians,” she said.