Coronavirus could reverse Ghana’s hard-won fight against Malaria


The Covid-19 pandemic is threatening Ghana’s progress in controlling cases of malaria —as attention has been shifted to battle the deadly virus.

The country has so far recorded a total of 54 malaria deaths between January and March 2020, the Ghana Health Service has said.

Sixteen of the deaths were among children under five years, the Service said in a statement.

Additionally, more than one million people tested positive for the disease during the period.

Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, therefore, urged the public to take charge of their health and that of their families by observing the precautionary protocols of malaria just as they were doing for COVID-19.

He said in order to reduce the number of deaths, it was important citizens observed the protocols by sleeping under an insecticide-treated net and to test and confirm the incidence of malaria in their bloodstreams before they took any artemether-lumefantrine (ACT).

Dr. Aboagye said pregnant women were to take all recommended doses of Sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) to keep themselves and their unborn babies safe from malaria and also comply with malaria treatment as prescribed.

These were contained in a statement, issued in Accra by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in commemoration of the 2020 World Malaria Day.

The theme: “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, is a movement dedicated to driving action and making change, and this starts with each and every one.

2020, World Malaria Day highlights, recognizes, and revitalises the involvement of high burden countries in Africa, Ghana inclusive, which collectively account for approximately 70 percent of the global malaria burden.

World Malaria Day (WMD) is commemorated every year on 25th April to recognise global efforts to control the parasitic disease. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria.

Since 2008, the day has been commemorated with emphasis on various themes assigned by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to End Malaria (RBM) & The World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana, in the first quarter of the year, has recorded a total of 1,001,070 malarial cases, being nearly half of the 2,346,677 suspected cases, which were tested, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) stated.

Dr. Aboagye said out of the confirmed cases, 21,201 were children under five years, while 28,764 were pregnant women.

Furthermore, 42 percent of the 58,775 admissions due to malaria were among children under five years.

With the involvement and commitment of political decision-makers, the private sector, civil society, the academic community, and the public, World Malaria Day 2020, however, is to rejuvenate malaria control and elimination efforts across the globe, the GHS said.

The statement said the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” was officially launched in Ghana last year by the First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo Addo.

“In Ghana, we are working to build political will, ensure efficient use of existing resources, increase private sector support, and boost media engagement in order to kick start the decade that will end malaria in Africa.”

Ghana, over the years, has made considerable gains in the fight against malaria.

Using the targets set in the National Strategic Plan (2014-2020) of reducing morbidity and mortality by 75 percent by 2020 with 2012 as the baseline.

The country has thus made some notable achievements by reducing malaria-related deaths in all ages, from 88 percent of 2,799 in 2012 to 333 at the end of 2019.

“In 2012, the country recorded eight malaria deaths every day but this was reduced to one malaria death every day in 2019,” the GHS said.

The statement said between 2012 and 2019, malaria-related admissions (all ages), reduced by eight percent, while malaria parasite prevalence rate in children under five reduced from 21 out of 100 children being positive in 2016, to 14 children out of 100 being positive in 2019.

This represents a 32 percent reduction in malaria prevalence between 2016 and 2019.

“Since 2012, the proportion of Out-Patients Department (OPD) malaria cases, tested by microscopy has steadily increased to 40 out of 100 suspected cases being tested in 2012, to 94 out of 100 suspected cases being tested in 2019, ” it said.

“So almost every suspected case seen at the health facilities are tested to confirm if it is malaria before being treated. ”

The statement said millions of Ghanaians had been reached with effective life-saving tools, such as long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, and preventive antimalarials.

It said working together with funding and implementing partners, civil society organizations and communities had led to increased access to malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Over the past few months, the world has been hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, including Ghana, which reported its first two cases on 12 March 2020.

Since then, the country has recorded 1,279 cases, with over 134 recoveries and 10 deaths as at the last update.

This is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered SAR-COV-2.

Until its outbreak in Wuhan China in December 2019, this strain of the virus was unknown.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by WHO, is testing the resilience of our health systems, adding to the heavy toll malaria exacts on the population,” the GHS said.

”Additionally, COVID-19 underscores the critical importance of having strong surveillance and health care systems to effectively address existing infectious diseases like malaria”.

By Jonathan Ofori, Daily Mail GH

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