Decidedly, death is the final dice in the affairs of men, the ultimate ace up the sleeves of the Grim Reaper played at the most opportune or opportunistic moment when the decision is made often without the consent of the owner that life is to be diced, dissected and ultimately deposited in a grave.
In Africa, how many times does death come only when the tape of life expectancy has been breasted? How many times does the finality of death foist itself on life before that tape is breasted? And finally, what is the life expectancy of an average Africa? For those born in 2021, the average life expectancy at birth across Africa was 63 years for makes and 66 years for females. While the average life expectancy globally was 71 years for males and 75 years for females in mid-2021.
For many in Africa, wedged between the rock of broken healthcare systems and the hard place of poverty, death is only a doorstep as even the most preventable of illnesses can cause one to sign the eternal checkout. Malaria is among the killer diseases which find perverse pleasure in cutting short the lives of children. The statistics are indeed harrowing.
In a recent message to commemorate the World Malaria Day on April 25, 2022, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said that Africa reported more than 600,000 deaths from malaria in 2021.
According to Moeti, in spite of significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control including the recommendation of the use of first vain against malaria, it remained a significant public health and development challenge. Stating that in 2021 about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in WHO/AFRO Region along with 602,020 reported deaths. She added that six African countries, the worst impacted by Malaria in the Region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55% of cases globally and 50% of deaths.
African Countries like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Mozambique accounted for over half of all malaria deaths.
What is 602,020 reported deaths out of a population of over 1.3 billion naira some may ask? But these are just the figures for malaria. In a continent where a confluence of factors has made life notoriously cheap, what are the figures of casualties arising from other causes?
Malaria devastates households and communities and these communities need to be empowered to play an active role in the fight against the disease. In Nigeria for example, a National Malaria Elimination Programme report established that about 10 persons die of malaria every hour with a total of about 90,000 malaria-related deaths recorded in the country every year.
What needs to be done to cut down the figures especially as many malaria-related deaths occur in children? Households and communities must be empowered and supported to fight malaria. This empowerment must take the form of sensitization as well as providing access to medical and technological interventions that that use resources efficiently while focusing on research and leveraging available evidence to ensure that resources are efficiently used.
There can be no doubt that even a single death for malaria has to be considered one death too many if the killer disease is to be stamped out of Africa.