Chioma Amajoh, former National Coordinator for the National Malaria Control Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria.
Known to many as “Mama Malaria,” Chioma Amajoh has spent more than 30 years advocating for malaria control and elimination in Nigeria. She developed a passion for malaria control while working on her graduate thesis on tropical disease. Shortly after graduation, Ms. Amajoh found a position working on a malaria control project at the Ministry of Health, where she continued to move up the ranks over the course of her career. Ms. Amajoh recently retired from her position as the National Coordinator of the National Malaria Control Programme in Nigeria. However, she remains active in the Roll Back Malaria Vector Control Working Group and consults for the World Health Organization. Ms. Amajoh tells us what she’s accomplished working with AIRS and why she believes IRS is central to Nigieria’s strategy for eliminating malaria.
AIRS: Tell us about your partnership with AIRS. What do you hope to accomplish by working with AIRS in Nigeria?
CA: When PMI/USAID came into the country a couple of years ago I wanted to support Nigeria. I looked at the plan and I said, no, no, no, no. We can’t just continue with nets, nets, nets. We need to push indoor residual spraying. At that moment it was only the World Bank project supporting IRS in this country. And how can we push down the burden of malaria with just nets and no other components of integrated vector management? So I advised the national coordinator at that time. I said, “PMI is known for IRS all over in East Africa, in Southern Africa. I said please, no matter what you do, we must have IRS.”
Looking at what AIRS has done in Nigeria it is awesome! Talking about 58,704 households covered. It might look small—just two local government areas—but it is a great demonstration of what is possible with IRS.
AIRS:Nigeria is one of the highest malaria burden countries in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of global malaria cases. What is needed to eliminate malaria in Nigeria? How does IRS fit in?
CA: What is needed in Nigeria is prioritizing malaria. Seeing malaria control as the surge, just like West African countries. The donor resources are decreasing but I still want donors and their partners to support IRS. At the moment, AIRS is the only properly structured IRS project in Nigeria. So we must expand IRS, but we must complement it with other interventions. We need to harmonize right from the onset our plan, implementation and M&E.
AIRS:At AIRS we try to share lessons learned among teams in different. What lessons learned from implementing IRS can Nigeria share with other nations?
CA: The lesson of partnership, working in harmony with AIRS which has been driven by Abt Associates in Nigeria.
Another lesson is going to the community. As a result of effective community mobilization efforts, people believe in IRS. People are saying “It works. We want IRS. We need IRS.”
What AIRS has done in Nigeria is encouraging the whole country. It’s small, but what you did for us in Nassa state is amazing, I tell you it is great. It has impact the results are clear to the community.
AIRS:What advice do you have for young people interested in working in malaria control?
CA: Stay committed. Work in harmony with others.
You must learn, you must implement, and as you do this there must be time to think and look back. Whatever mistakes you have made, you must learn from them and move forward.
AIRS:How did you get your nick name “Mama Malaria”?
CA: I sense it’s because I am passionate about malaria control all these years. That passion came to me when I was with my first malaria control project in 1977 as a young scientist.
After service in the British SAS Regiment the author became a physician and then an orthopaedic surgeon.
He has held professorial positions in Canada, Vietnam and the United States, practiced and taught orthopaedic surgery in three continents and in several wars.
He has extensive experience as an expert witness in court. Somewhere along the way, time was found to operate a four hundred acre mixed farm, a one hundred seat restaurant and to obtain a licence as a flying instructor.
The author's books are available from bookstores, the publishers, or from on-line bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo/Chapters.