GHS holds three day meeting on malaria prevention

By
Samira Larbie, GNA

Accra, Feb. 26, GNA
– The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has organised a three day meeting for Seasonal
Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) working groups to discuss important interventions
that would aid in the fight against malaria.

SMC is the
intermittent administration of full treatment courses of an antimalarial
medicine during the malaria season to prevent malarial illness with the
objective of maintaining therapeutic antimalarial drug concentrations in the
blood throughout the period of greatest malarial risk.

The meeting, which
brought together health professionals from various countries, seeks to discuss
challenges and way forward with regards to SMC, its implementation, and find
lasting solutions for malaria prevention, control and elimination.

Malaria has a
devastating impact on individuals, communities and countries which creates
strong economic burden on countries.

In Ghana, malaria
continues to be the leading cause of outpatient attendance, even though
significant gains have been achieved as a result of recent scale up of
preventive and curative interventions.

It is the leading
cause of mortality and morbidity in Ghana especially with children under the
age of five, hence, several efforts have been put in place to control malaria
in Ghana through strategic development and implementation of proven
interventions.

In Ghana, the
northern part is similar to the conditions prevailing in the Sahel region with
malaria transmission being relatively seasonal. The malaria burden also appears
to be higher in that part of the country than the other areas as detected in
surveys on malaria parasite prevalence.

A Multiple Indicator
Cluster Survey, MICS, conducted in 2011 showed a wide variation between
parasite prevalence in the south, four per cent in Greater Accra Region and 51
per cent in the Upper West Region.

This observation
influenced the decision to implement Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention as an
additional intervention in the Upper West region and subsequently scale up to
the entire northern part.

Dr Patrick Aboagye,
the Director General, GHS, speaking at the opening ceremony commended the
efforts of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) and expressed the hope
that they would continue with the trajectory to make Ghana a malaria free
nation.

The aim of Ghana’s
malaria control programme is to reduce malaria to acceptable levels and to
achieve this goal, a number of WHO recommended interventions are being
implemented by the NMCP with support from development partners.

These interventions
include sleeping under treated bed nets, indoor spraying using insecticides and
advocacy, among others.

In addition to this,
Ghana has incorporated WHO SMC for children under five as an additional
intervention on the strategic plan of malaria control between 2014 and 2020.

Dr Aboagye said SMC
has proven to be a cost effective intervention for malaria prevention and must
be scaled up for maximum impact.

“Not only has SMC
helped in reducing morbidity and mortality with children under five it has also
helped increase health workers awareness of vigilance,” he said.

Dr Murindahabi
Moripue, the SMC Sub-Regional Coordinator for West and Central Africa, said for
years, countries have implemented SMC activities that has seen progress and
good scaling-up, however, there are still challenges.

She urged
participants to have fruitful deliberations and ensure that the discussions
would enhance the fight against malaria in their various countries.

Dr Keziah Malm, the
Programme Manager of NMCP,  said Ghana would still be operating the same
strategic plan such as the use of insecticide nets, indoor spraying in
selective districts, and SMC for prevention in Upper East, Upper West and
Northern regions.

She said these
interventions were being carried out mostly at places where malaria was 50 to
60 per cent prevalent, even though in the southern parts there were places
where cases rise up in some seasons.

Dr Malm said it is for
this reason that SMC treatment is currently targeted at the Upper West, East
and Northern regions.

She said malaria
kills but at the same time it is preventable and treatable and called on the
public to take preventive interventions, adding, “even if we happen to get it
let us get tested before taking the malaria course.

This, she said, was
important as some diseases had signs of malaria.

GNA