When the disease strikes, most Nigerians visit patent medicine vendors (PMVs) like Bisi (not her real name) for relief.
"You will take chloroquine; four today, four tomorrow and two afterwards", says Bisi to a customer, prescribing treatment for a bout of malaria.
Bisi operates a small pharmacy in a poor area of Abuja, Nigeria's capital. Many of her patrons buy medicine for their children's malaria, which causes twenty per cent of all deaths of children under five in the country.
According to her neighbours, and by her own account, Bisi is a "trained nurse". She administers drugs to the residents of Lugbe, a slum of about 50, 000 people among a metropolitan population thought to number well over three million.
"You will take the chloroquine with Panadol", a popular brand of analgesic in Nigeria), Bisi tells her client.
The only test Bisi conducts is to ask, "How are you feeling, are you feeling cold, headache?" As soon as she gets an answer in the affirmative, she administers chloroquine and piriton, an anti-allergy drug.
Chloroquine was once the most effective treatment for malaria. As early as 2005, however, Nigerian health officials advised against using the drug, because the malaria parasite had become resistant to it.
But Bisi is oblivious to that problem. She administers chloroquine in the confidence that her client will be cured of her ailment.
The baby killer
The death of a child is a sensitive issue to discuss, especially with immediate relatives of the deceased. As reporting for this article unfolded over three weeks, two child deaths from malaria were encountered in one neighborhood. Although traumatised parents refused to speak about it, a relative agreed to talk.
"My uncle's daughter was poorly treated for malaria," the source, who wants to remain anonymous, told PREMIUM TIMES. "She was complaining, they gave her medicine, and then she died. It was the only girl. It is too sad." The child was about four years old..............