GENEVA - The World Health Organization reports it has provided anti-malaria drugs to nearly 900,000 children in areas in northeast Nigeria formerly held by Boko Haram militants.
The effort is part of a new strategy to tackle malaria, a major killer of children younger than 5 years old. The director of WHO's Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, tells VOA the agency has completed the first round of an emergency approach to stop the disease.
Alonso estimates about 10,000 lives will be saved by providing anti-malaria drugs to the same 900,000 children every month until November, when the period of high transmission will be over.
He says the drug clears the parasites that might already have invaded a child's system and provides protection for three to four weeks.
"By repeating this operation to the same children every month over the next four or five months, which is the high transmission area," Alonso said, "we may potentially — unfortunately, it will not be perfect and therefore we will not be able to stop all deaths — but, we should be able to have a massive impact in terms of prevention of disease and death in that specific population group, which is the highest risk group and where mortality concentrates."
WHO estimates there are more than 8,000 cases of malaria every week, including seven deaths, among northeastern Nigeria's population of 3.7 million people. There are an estimated 1.1 million children aged three months to five years in the region.