Malaria: Nigeria, other sub-Saharan countries receive low research funding

In-spite of having a high death rate related to malaria, a quarter of countries in sub-Saharan Africa receive very little funding for research into the deadly disease.

A recent study showed that most of the countries with the highest prevalence of malaria-related cases and death received little funding from major public and philanthropic health institutions to research on combating the disease.

The study by the University of Southampton on global funding trends for malaria research in sub- Saharan Africa was published on Thursday in The Lancet Global Health journal.

According to the research, countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda receive reasonably large investments in malaria-related research, whereas others such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic received little or no investment.

Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi ranked highest when research investment and funding for malaria control were combined.

Tanzania ($107.8m), Kenya ($92.9m), Uganda ($97.9m), Malawi ($71.7m) and Ghana ($62.7m) received the most research funding while Nigeria ($786.2m), Tanzania ($750m), Kenya ($621.9m), Ethiopia ($578m) and Malawi ($424.6m) all received the most non-research funding.

Michael Heads, who led the group of researchers on the study, said they noted that research investments are typically highest in countries where funding for malaria control is high.

He said a high disparity was noted in the unequal spread of resources to tackle the disease in sub- Saharan Africa as the region with the highest malaria-related death had no research investment. Some of the countries also affected are Chad, Congo, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and Mauritania.

He however, said all the countries received non-research funding such as bed nets, public health schemes and anti-malaria drugs which were designated to the control of the disease.

The study found that the total domestic and International funding for malaria is inadequate if most countries are to achieve the World Health Organisation (WHO) global target in burden reduction of malaria by 2030.

WHO has since 2000 been making huge strides against malaria and this has brought about a reduction in the death rate of malaria by 60 per cent with at least six million people saved globally.

According to the health agency, effort to curb the deadly disease is however becoming more challenging as mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to drugs and bed nets and as such the organisation is calling for new vector control response as a game changer against the disease.

The disease is said to kill about 430,000 people a year, making it one of the world’s deadliest.

The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR had earlier this month raised alarm over the increasing incidence of mosquito resistance to insecticide nets in 18 states in the country as over 50 million Nigerians still test positive to malaria annually.

The report revealed that Lagos, Ogun and Niger state still have the highest incidence of resistance cases.

Nigeria remains one of the major malaria prevalent countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country has been employing preventive and treatment measures as it has not had much success in researches on the elimination of the disease.

The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, in 2004 instituted prizes to encourage scientists from around the world to work on new innovations especially on malaria, but no entry since 2010 has been considered worthy of the prize for malaria.

The competition on malaria control expects the prospective winners to focus on Nigeria where the problem is rampant and has attached a monetary reward of $100,000

According to the organisation, closing for the entries last year was extended to this year because none was good enough for the prize. The award which started in 2004, has had no winner since 2010.

Mr. Heads said the research by his group has shown that some countries are being neglected.

“We noted that the disparity can be partly explained by the fact that some countries in the region do not have an established research infrastructure so it is hard to invest there.

“However, we need to alter the capacity for research in the underfunded countries so as to be able to achieve meaningful results on tackling the menace as ultimately, the neglected populations in these countries are the ones who suffer greatly from malaria and other diseases,” he said.

The study was done by examining research funding data related to malaria from 1997-2013 which was sourced from existing data set from 13 major philanthropic global health funders and from funding database.

It noted that U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation topped the highest funders with about 60 per cent of the funding.



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