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A Rise In Fevers Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic In Maiduguri

In spite of the highly infectious Coronavirus Disease wading through Borno State, Malaria and other health challenges among children aged between 0-14 years still present a threat.

A brief observation of hospital and health services in certain parts of the state revealed that some hospitals were closed, the numbers of routine patients were limited and only a few emergencies were attended to as the state focused on treating and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 among its populace.

Unfortunately, this has meant that residents have since resorted to self-medication as well as the use of local medication without thoroughly being examined.

Statistics from gotten from the coding and indexing units of two hospitals across the state in April 2020 showed that the average number of malaria cases among children between 0-14 years old was 15. However, this number increased in June. 

For example, a report from HumAngle released on the 6th of October 2020 indicated that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Gwange admitted 14 malaria patients but the number rose to 846 and 1,898 in July and September, respectively. The MSF treated 3,287 children for malaria from August to September with an average of 120 cases recorded each day in October 2020 in the state.

Some residents in the state reported that the majority of households suffer from mild to chronic Malaria, sometimes, without severe symptoms. Among the 6 households visited in Shettimari, two to three of the family members had malaria. Shettimari was visited because it is a riverine area prone to contamination and infection as the residents make use of the river instead of the boreholes, despite having some around.

The mother of 13-year-old Fatima Abubakar said her daughter suffered a prolonged malaria fever, but she took her to a chemist for injection and medication and unfortunately she did not get better until she used a home remedy. 

Falmata Kyari, a sister to two brothers below 14 years, said her two brothers suffered Malaria fever twice and were treated in a pharmacy, adding that same treatment was applied to some Malaria patients in her area.

Another woman said: “My 2-year-old baby suffered a running temperature for two days, luckily for me, I took her to the Gwange MSF clinic and she was treated freely.”

Similarly, 5-year-old Hafsat’s mother noticed that the child had a Malaria-induced fever for days which suddenly deteriorated fast. She recalls that she noticed foam forming in her baby’s mouth and immediately rushed her to an undisclosed hospital for treatment. Luckily, she is now sound and healthy, Zara Mohammed confirmed. 

It is found that poverty, negligence, social deprivation, ignorance, lack of access and the practice of self-medication are major causes that aggravate the recurrence of malaria among 0-14-year-olds in Borno state. Other health issues amidst the pandemic include typhoid fever and ulcer.

Expert Views On Malaria

Speaking to CAMPUS REPORTER, Dr Hassan Elechi, a Pediatrician at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) said the age and weight of a child are important in supplementing adequate treatments. He said that malaria among 0-5-year-olds is common among those residing in malaria-endemic areas because children above 6 months are left without antibodies from their mothers. Therefore, Dr Elechi cautions parents to desist from self-medication.

A professor of Infectious Diseases and Community Pediatric with UMTH, Professor Garba Mohammed Ashiru says “so many fevers are not malaria,” adding that one needs to be diagnosed and tested properly He stressed that Seasonal Malaria Chemotherapy (SMC), use of insecticides and treated mosquito nets are preventive measures.

While calling on residents to frequently sanitize their environments and clear bushes and stagnant water, Professor Ashiru noted that access to treatment has been one of the major challenges to some residents in the state.

Interventions In Malaria

Various governmental and non-governmental organisations have offered a range of interventions. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)  has provided free medical care and distributed 5,938 mosquito nets to patients admitted in the hospital, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has distributed mosquito nets to IDPs at Bakassi camp and Peace Ambassadors Centre For Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment (PACHE), North East Regional Initiative (NERI) and the United State Agency For International Development (USAID) have also distributed mosquito nets to IDPs at Shuwari, Mogolis and Bolori camps.

By Zainab Yetunde Adam and Shettima Lawan Monguno

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