UE/R: 44% of children infected with malaria

Dr. Kofi Issah, Upper East Regional Director of Health, addressed journalists ahead of the immunisation exercise

A Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) cited by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has reported at least 44% of children between 6 and 59 months in the Upper East region as carrying disturbing loads of malaria parasites in their bloodstreams.

An anti-malaria mass immunisation exercise is expected to begin Monday August 15, this year, throughout the region in what is known as the Seasonal Malaria Chemo (SMC) prevention to help reduce the burden of the disease in children below 5 years. And the first phase, which has been scheduled to come to a close this Saturday, is targeting children who fall between the ages of 3 and 59 months.

“This exercise falls under the general country’s strategy of reducing the burden of malaria in children under five [years] who are part of vulnerable population. The benefit of investing in these children is enormous, which includes actually getting them healthy, contributing to households’ productivity and also making savings when the disease is prevented,” the Upper East Regional Director of Health, Dr. Kofi Issah, told journalists at the close of a stakeholders’ meeting held in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, to herald the exercise.

He added: “These months are the highest transmission season. Definitely, if they take this drug, they are able to have enough concentration of the drug in their bloodstreams to fight the malaria parasites. This exercise will be starting on the 15th of August and it would be given again a month later, so we have four rounds and this covers the transmission season for malaria in this region.”

It is a door-to-door outreach

Volunteers from the health sector have been engaged to move from house to house to instruct parents or caregivers as to how to administer two anti-malaria medicines called Sulfadoxine Pyrimethamine and Amodiaquine.

“We would be using one drug called Sulfadoxine Pyrimethamine. Let’s call it SP for short. And then, we would be using Amodiaquine. We would use the two drugs on the first day. Then, the subsequent days, we would be using the Amodiaquine. So, it is for three days. And definitely, the dosages for the children from 3 months to 11 months would be different from those who are from 12 months to 59 months.

“The volunteers and the health staff would, during these periods, educate not only the mothers at the clinics but also come to the house to educate people on how these things should be given. We know some of the children would vomit these tablets out but they would need to be given. Or some of these children would miss this round. It doesn’t mean that in the next round, they shouldn’t take the drugs. They would have to take the drug,” Dr. Issah explained.

Possible side effects may include diarrhea

The directorate has hinted at the possibility of side effects showing in some children after the medicines have been administered. Households, the directorate advised, are not to panic but to report at the nearest health facility if any side effect occurs.

“Normally, with every drug there would be some side effects. And some of these side effects might include rashes on the body or diarrhoea. Or if the mother notices something abnormal in the child, the mother, the household, everybody should report. Our intention is to do good, but in any human endeavour, there are normally some mishaps. Even if the mishap is one in a million, we should prepare for that one case,” the Regional Director recommended.

A number of children who have travelled out of the region for holidays and as a result may miss the first round would have the opportunity to be immunised when they return. The exercise is a four-month campaign, stretching from August to November with over 200,000 children expected to be covered within the period. Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council has assured the directorate of its support to ensure a successful exercise.

Government has made available Gh¢1,622,020 for the exercise in the region where the burden of the disease in the area is said to be incomparable to what obtains in the other parts of the country.

“The burden of malaria due to research or a survey has found out 44% of our children 6 to 59 months of age, when they were tested for parasites were found to have malaria parasites in their bloodstreams compared to far, far lower in some of the other regions in the country. We are not saying that other regions don’t have malaria but then where the burden is highest that is where I think Ghana Health Service and the Government of Ghana would actually target these resources. If they reduce the burden, it’s actually going to benefit the whole country,” Dr. Kofi Issah stated.

Source: Ghana/starrfmonline.com/103.5FM/Edward Adeti

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