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TIPS ON MALARIA

  • HOW CAN MOSQUITOES BE CONTROLLED?

    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.

  • HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM MOSQUITO-BORN DISEASES?

    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.

  • WHO ARE AT RISK?


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.
     

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THE CLOCK IS TICKING

The  year  2015  is  significant  for many reasons. It is the year  key targets,  including  the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are to be met. With just a  few months to go, experts are doing reality checks, taking stock,  reflecting  on  what  has  worked and what has not. The Post-2015 agenda now  seems  to  be  the  catch  phrase. Perhaps, the quest to defeat malaria by 2015  is  one  lofty  plan  that  demands scrutiny.

Invest in the Future: Defeat  Malaria, was  the  inspiring  three-year  theme (2013-2015)  adopted by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership to drive the attainment of the MDGs.

The call to action is still echoing in  the minds of stakeholders, who,  seeing the possibility of a dream,  have called  for more resources to  be  pumped into the fight to eliminate the killer disease. Now, the big question  is “can  malaria deaths be ended, as promised?”

It  appears  that,  somehow,  time  and momentum  have  been  lost,  and  the 2015  target  to  end  malaria  deaths, which seemed so practicable a few years ago, now appears too optimistic.

For  now,  though,  stakeholders  may prefer  to  ignore  the  bleak  realities, hoping  that  the  future  brings  results that  can  set  the  vulnerable  ones  free from this scourge.

Interventions
The WHO, in a malaria fact sheet released in December 2013, pointed out that  the  distribution  of    the  most popular malaria  prevention tool, long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), remains below universal coverage targets and has not appreciably improved  over  the  last  two  years, because of the low numbers delivered in 2011 and 2012.

But there was some good news because in 2013, an estimated 136 million LLINs were  delivered  to  endemic  countries, showing  a  major  increase  over  the previous year.  

Luckily  too,  the  global  health  body foresees a better period  leading to the targeted  2015,  saying that  about  200 million  LLINs  have  been  procured awaiting delivery this year.

In Ghana, the National Malaria  Control Programme  (NMCP)  said  its  bed  net hang up distribution campaign attained a wide coverage  which is rated highly among endemic countries.

“Ownership of nets is now 96.7%. Its use in pregnant women is now 59.7% while in children it is 77.6%,” said the programme manager, Dr Constance Bart Plange, pointing out  though, that some countries are not doing so well.

Available  statistics  show  that  a  mere 135  million  people  (4%  of  the  global population  at  risk  of  malaria)  were protected by indoor  residual spraying worldwide. It is  worrying that about a billion people still remain susceptible to the killer disease, and desperately need to be protected. Is it possible to address this in the few months before the target date of 2015?

Countries  like  Ghana  may  not  be  too perturbed by missing 2015 targets. The NMCP  is  relieved  that  “malaria  is  no longer the leading cause of death in the country.”

It  finds  the  situation  hopeful  because progress has been recorded among the vulnerable groups.

There  is  reduction  in  malaria  case fatality  in  children  under-five  years, reduction in  malaria  deaths  in  health facilities, and reduction in deaths among pregnant women.

According to the WHO fact sheet,  only about one-tenth of the estimated global case count is  detected through surveil- lance. But, without effective surveillance systems,  it  is  impossible  to  reliably measure  progress  towards  malaria targets.

Strengthened surveillance would enable ministries of health  to  direct financial resources to  populations most in need, to respond to disease outbreaks, and to assess the impact of control measures.

RBM  partners  therefore urge  endemic countries to strengthen malaria surveillance  and  response  systems  in line with the  WHO and RBM guidance released in 2012. Malaria surveillance is a  critical foundation of WHO'sT3  (Test, Treat  and  Track)  approach,”  said  the report.

A lot has been said about T3, but, some now question the commitment  of stakeholders to the test, treat and track slogan. Because the laboratories remain inadequate,  ill-equipped  and  poorly staffed,  compelling  people  to  travel  for miles and queue for hours to do a simple test for malaria.

The WHO fact sheet indicated  an expansion of access to rapid  diagnostic tests (RDTs). It said the  volume of RDT kits sales in endemic countries increased from 88 million in 2010 to 205 million  in  2012.  Between  2010  and 2012,  the  proportion  of  suspected malaria cases receiving a diagnostic test in the public sector increased from 44% to 64% globally, and from 37% to 61% in Africa.

But, the increase in patients  tested  by microscopic examination to an  all-time high of 188 million  in  2012,  does  not guarantee that by 2015 there will be no more deaths from malaria.

The heart of the matter
Authorities  complain  that  they  are overwhelmed by the prevalence of fake drugs and the difficulty it  poses to the fight against  malaria.  They  are everywhere. And the scary fact is even health workers find it difficult to tell a fake drug from a genuine brand.   

It is refreshing to hear that in spite of the growing menace of fake drugs, the WHO said  procurements  are  increasing  for quality-assured  ACTs  (recommended first-line  treatment for malaria caused by  Plasmodium  falciparum,  the  most deadly species that infect humans).

A great challenge has also been identified  in  how  to  intensify  malaria control and elimination efforts and scale up cross-border activities to prevent re- introduction  of  the  disease  into  areas that have  become malaria-free. Closely linked with cross-border malaria control is the need for political  leaders to  take  ownership  of  their  malaria problems.  To  eliminate  malaria,  it  is important  that  leaders  co-operate  with their  neighbours  to  solve  a  common problem. Currently, the  signals coming from Africa are not encouraging.

While  the  world  waits  to  know  how Africa will fare against 2015 targets, the R B M  draws  attention to the wide funding  deficit  (US$  3.6  billion)  for malaria  control  on  the  continent    from 2013-2015.

Malaria still kills an estimated  627,000 people  every  year,  mainly  children under 5 years in sub-Saharan Africa.  “...without effective surveillance systems, it is impossible to reliably measure progress towards malaria targets."

But when it comes to targets and predictions, the WHO has long acknowl- edged that there is "a  large degree of uncertainty"  about  its  figures.  Often- times, there is  no solid information on countries  with  the  biggest  outbreaks, including  the  Democratic  Republic  of Congo and  Nigeria,  which  account  for about 40% of global malaria deaths.

And for good reason, critics may have a point in being incredulous about meeting  targets,  because  the  Abuja Declaration to cut malaria  incidence in half by 2010, and  previous attempts to eliminate the disease, fell through.

BY CARLTON  COFIE - GHANA
 

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