By Joy Odor
A joint team from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), and the Ministry of Defence Health Implementation Programme (NMOD-HIP) have paid a courtesy visit to the Benue State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Joseph Ngbea, and key state health stakeholders to advocate for a national malaria slide bank project, supported by funds from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).
The team, led by Dr. Simon Ijezie from the NMEP, described the slide bank project as a unique opportunity for Benue State to both build state diagnostic capacity and lead the development of a critical resource for improving malaria diagnostics in both the state and across Nigeria.
The project, which will be implemented by the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BUTH), Makurdi, and the General Hospital, Wanune, elicited an enthusiastic response from the Honorable Commissioner, who stated, “You have my support, 100%.”
Since 2012, WRAIR, through PMI, has been supporting NMEP in strengthening and expanding capacity in malaria diagnosis in 111 secondary and tertiary health facilities across 11 Nigerian states.
Over this period, WRAIR has trained over 760 Nigerian laboratory personnel to become malaria diagnostic microscopists, and worked with the supported medical facilities to develop standard operating procedures for quality management in malaria diagnosis.
The malaria slide bank effort is its latest project, and led by NMEP, will be producing validated in-country malaria slides in Benue and Akwa-Ibom States for training, external quality assurance, and future research purposes.
Access to its own slide bank will enhance Nigerian self-reliance and capability in malaria diagnosis, ending the decades-long trend to procure slides from outside Nigeria.
Strengthened and expanded malaria diagnosis is a key tenet in the national strategy for malaria elimination, as it contributes to improved malaria treatment and, ultimately, lives saved.
As Dr. Ijezie stated, “Gone are the days when every fever is malaria; accurate diagnosis is critical for effective treatment and elimination.”
PMI has been supporting malaria elimination in Nigeria since 2011. To date, it has provided over $700 million in support of life saving malaria interventions to end malaria in Nigeria, thus decreasing mortality rate of both children and adults.
For 2020, it invested 77 million dollars toward strengthening malaria case management including laboratory capacity building and quality assurance of malaria diagnostics.