Military joins in fight against malaria

A joint military and civilian campaign on how to deal with the scourge of malaria in West Africa yesterday opened in Accra.

The five-day training of trainers programme at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Ghana brought together military and civilian representatives from member states of the ECOWAS to draw up a strategic plan on how to first reduce its prevalence and then try to eliminate it.

Malaria, a tropical disease which has plagued 109 countries worldwide, affects 35 Africa countries and 13 of the 15 countries making the ECOWAS, with between 400,000 and 800,000 cases reported worldwide.

Prevention to Elimination
In an interview with the Daily Graphic on the malaria situation in West Africa, Dr Tete S. Amouh, West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), says there is now a shift from malaria prevention to elimination, “to believe that it can be eliminated.”

“For few years, we have been talking about malaria control but now the thinking is moving from control to elimination. So to go to elimination, you move from control, pre-elimination and then elimination.” 

“In West Africa, in terms of economy, malaria costs us 40 per cent of our budget, which is high,” he stated.

He said the rate of malaria in West Africa was very high and had been identified as the cause of poverty “and at the same time poverty is the cause of the disease,” which was what informed the readiness to fight the disease.”

While stating that the reduction experienced in under-five mortality in the sub-region, since 2010, suggested that programmes were working, he said there was the need to bring in some innovations to fight the disease, hence the training programme.

Malaria Deaths 
In a presentation on the economics of malaria control, Dr Benjamin S.C. Uzochukwu, a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician in the Department of Community Medicine, University of Nigeria, said in every 30 to 45 seconds, a child dies from malaria, while between 1.5 million to 2.7 million people are killed annually. 

He indicated that 57.9 per cent of global malaria deaths were concentrated among the world’s poorest and that if the high malaria incidence in Nigeria was tackled, it could have an impact on the world’s malaria prevalence.

Dr Uzochukwu explained that embarking on a comprehensive malaria control globally would cost US$3 billion annually, an amount that is spent annually by the Nigerian government on malaria. “forty per cent of global funds of malaria goes to Nigeria so it’s a very huge amount of money,” he said.

According to the senior lecturer, the most vulnerable to malaria were children under five years of age and pregnant women, which was why dealing with it was very expensive, adding that the burden was heaviest in the West African sub-region.

“Because the impact of malaria is more on children and pregnant women, we stand the risk of jeopardising the MDGs two, four, and five,” he said.

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