Medical experts have attributed natural and man-made environmental issues such as poor sanitation and hygiene as the causes of persistent malaria transmission in Nigeria and major setbacks to the country’s control efforts. 

The experts, who spoke with PUNCH Health-wise in separate interviews, also said that ecological factors affect the transmission intensity, seasonality and how malaria is distributed across different geographical locations. A professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics in the Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, Christian Happi, told our correspondent that strategies that changed humans’ attitude toward the environment were among the oldest interventions for malaria control but currently not the most prominent despite historical evidence of its effectiveness.

He noted that good sanitation and a clean environment have been the age-long strategies that have been effective in fighting the spread of malaria, especially with several other interventions. He said, “When we talk about environmental factors, we talk about environmental hygiene and sanitation. We talk about how water stagnation and storage in containers become breeding sites for female anopheles mosquitoes responsible for disease transmission.

“When there are stagnant waters in the environment or people store water in containers, they become a breeding place for larvae, which develop into mosquitoes. A dirty environment is also a good reason for disease transmission, especially when we litter the environment with empty plastic bottles and use plates that can store water. This increases the presence of anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

Now, we still have flashes of rain, and I want us to understand that it’s not only environmental factors but developmental issues.” We need to develop proper drainages and ensure that they are clean. Developmental problems such as the provision of tap water would discourage storing water in containers. Thereby, breeding mosquitoes would have been taken care of. “We should, therefore, avoid stagnant waters around our environment if we must eliminate malaria in Nigeria.”

Culled from PUNCH November 14, 2023

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