One of the interventions recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on preventing malaria in children is Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC). This involves the intermittent administration of full treatment courses of an antimalarial medicine to children in areas of high seasonal transmission during the malaria season.
WHO recommends the administration of full doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine plus amodiaquine to children in the Sahel sub-region of sub-Saharan Africa, where the parasite that causes malaria P. falciparum is sensitive to both antimalarial medicines.
The objective is to prevent malarial illness by maintaining therapeutic antimalarial drug concentrations in the blood throughout the period of greatest malarial risk.
In 2018, the federal government implemented Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) in 46 local government areas across Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa and Katsina with support from Malaria Consortium and funded by Open Philanthropy , through Good Ventures and UKaid through DFID.
Malaria Consortium is one of the leading organisations supporting the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) of the Federal Ministry of Health in the implementation of the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) intervention since 2013.
Full doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine plus amodiaquine were administered to children between three to 59 months of age during the peak period of malaria transmission in the rainy season.
While several success stories have been recorded in these states where the intervention has been implemented, Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) coverage is still very low in some states that should have it, while others are yet to be covered. There is need for increased efforts and mobilization of resources ahead of the rainy season to ensure that more children benefit from it.
Experts have enjoined the federal, state governments and other stakeholders to invest in Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) to reduce the burden of malaria in those areas and protect children from the disease.
Kolawole Maxwell, Regional programmes director for West and Central Africa of Malaria Consortium, said there are millions of children still eligible for coverage in the Sahelian states who have not yet been covered.
He said there was need for government and the private sector to provide more resources for more children to be covered even while the consortium and other partners are mobilizing resources towards it.
Malaria Focal Person for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Linda Ozo, said Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) has helped saved the lives of children under five, adding that there was need for improved funding from government, donors and other stakeholders to protect more children.
She said that nine states in the Sahel belt are eligible but only children in six states of the country have been receiving the seasonal chemo prevention because of funding.
“We are still trying to mobilise resources to reach the other states. Government has to prioritize this intervention because it has proven to be very effective. It works and can help save the lives of children to under-five,” she added.
Nnennna Ogbolafor, Head Case Management, of the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) of the Federal Ministry of Health said the most important aspect of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) is that it stops malaria cases in children from progressing to severe malaria thereby reducing deaths from the disease.
She said there was need for all stakeholders to improve efforts to ensure that more children at risk who are yet to be covered in the remaining states are reached.
Speaking during the flag off of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) distribution campaign at Zamfara State this year, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, the Emir of Bungudu, said the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC ) medicines given free of charge to children for four months annually has reduced the burden of the disease, adding ,“We now worry less about our children dying due to malaria. Our men can devote their energy to farming and other occupation. We want government and partners to continue to collaborate to ensure the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) programme continues, every year.”
The Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) programme was implemented in Garki Local Government Area of Jigawa State for the first time in 2018.
Data for the 23 health facilities in Garki local government area showed a reduction of such cases from 5,877 to 3,288, for 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The 2018 Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) round was implemented in all local government areas of Sokoto and Zamfara States. In addition, nine local government areas of Jigawa and Katsina States were supported, which is less than 15% of the local government areas in the two states.
Expansion of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) coverage to all 61 local government areas of Jigawa and Katsina, and to the nine northern states of the country experiencing seasonal peak transmission of malaria , will contribute immensely towards achievement of the global objectives of universal coverage of targeted malaria intervention.