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Coronavirus Taking Malaria’s Spotlight?

Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria 3 mins read

Garba Shehu said 822 people are killed by malaria daily in Nigeria.

Based on the findings from the WHO, a United Nations health agency, the claim by the presidential spokesperson is false. Using a WHO estimate, we infer the malaria-caused death toll to be around 260.

Full Text

GARBA Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari on March 1, expressed his dissatisfaction with the media blitz on Coronavirus.

The presidential aide wondered why the media would focus attention on the disease outbreak rather than other illnesses killing Nigerians.

Two weeks ago on Friday, it could be recalled the Federal Ministry of Health officially announced Nigeria’s first COVID-19 case.

However, since he made the post, the claim has made headlines in major Nigerian newspapers.

The tweet in less than 24 hours has gathered over 2,400 likes and 716 retweets as many Nigerians now asking President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to prioritise the country’s health sector.


The ICIR put a call through to Shehu to validate the claim. He, however, did not respond to the request. They followed up with text messages which he still did not respond too, as at the time of filing this report. This reporter further sent a tweet to him and awaits a response.

Our Findings 

Data from the World Health Organisation suggests that Nigeria recorded the highest cases of malaria in the world in recent years. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) closely followed this statistic; according to WHO’ ss Global Malaria Programme (GHP)– the coordinating unit that controls and eliminates malaria.

Furthermore, UNICEF surmises that children under age five are most vulnerable to the disease, and often fall victim to it.

Excerpt from a WHO report; courtesy: ICIR

While a 2018 report by WHO paints a dire picture of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and India, it certainly does not suggest Nigeria has a daily malaria death toll in the eight-hundreds’. The report, however, did note that out of the 435,000 malaria-caused deaths globally, Nigeria had an estimate of 43,700 in the year reviewed. This figure accounted for 19% of global malaria deaths, DRC followed with 11%.

A further breakdown of 43, 700 deaths recorded in 2017, therefore implies that 120 deaths were recorded daily in Nigeria.

Do the figures add up?

Furthermore, the latest World Malaria Report, published on 4th December 2019, sings a similar tune. The document notes a global occurrence of 228 million malaria cases in 2018. Out of this figure, nineteen countries in the Sub Saharan and India bore almost 85 per cent of the global burden. Additionally, Nigeria accounted for an estimated number of about 405, 000 casualties globally. From these deaths, due to Malaria parasite, Nigeria reportedly accounted for almost 25 per cent.

Again, from the same report, it stated that “Malaria deaths reduced from about 400 000 in 2010 to about 260 000 in 2018, the largest reduction being in Nigeria, from almost 153 000 deaths in 2010 to about 95 000 deaths in 2018.”

So, to be modest, if we are to adopt the quoted figure of 95,000 deaths in 2018, it means 260 deaths were recorded daily due to malaria.


It is important to note that while these are estimates, the figure we derived is three times lower than that put forward by the presidential spokesperson. We achieved this by dividing the estimated number of 95,000 by 365 days, giving us 260 deaths daily; a value which is three times lower than 822. This margin of error completely nullifies such a suggestion. 

This fact-check is an edited version of an ICIR publication. 

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