World Malaria Day (WMD) is commemorated every year on April 25 and recognizes global efforts to control malaria. Malaria continues to be a threat globally with 3.3 billion people in 106 countries still at risk.
The theme for this year, is “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, which highlights the need for individual and collective responsibility for the control of the disease
The African continent accounts for over 90% of the global malaria burden according to the 2017 World Malaria report. About 194 million new cases and 410 000 deaths were recorded in Africa alone in the year 2016.
Honourable Speaker, it is worrying that our country Ghana is one of the eleven countries in the world with the biggest malaria problem. These countries account for over 70% of the global burden. It is in this context that the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign is critical.
Despite some progress made in its control, Malaria is still a major public health problem in our country and also poses a significant development challenge impacting all sectors.
Ghana’s efforts are accelerating progress to save lives; malaria death rates decreased across age groups by 87.3% within a period of ten years. That is, deaths associated with malaria, dropped from 3,374 cases in the year 2000 to 428 cases in the year 2018. However, since 2012, the proportion of OPD malaria cases, tested by microscopy or RDT, has been increasing. From a low figure of 38.9% in 2012, this has risen to 91.5% in 2018.
This performance represents a 135.2% increase over the 2012 results and 105.0% achievement of the target set (100%) by the program in 2018. Millions of people in Ghana have been reached with effective lifesaving tools (long lasting insecticide treated Nets and ACTs). Just last year, over 15million nets were distributed nationwide. The 2016 Malaria Indicator Survey showed that 72% of all households in the country owned Insecticide Treated Nets an increase from the 2003 figure of 3.2% (GDHS, 2003).
In that same study, three out of every five children under five years slept under the Insecticide Treated Nets (52.3%, MIS, 2016) and about half of pregnant women sleep under Insecticide Treated Nets every night (50%, Malaria Indicator Survey 2016). Following the distribution of 15 million nets last year, we believe the figures will even be higher.
This year, the ministry is extending a very effective intervention of Seasonal Malaria Chemo prevention to the Northern, North East and Savanna Regions so the children in those regions will have additional protection. Larviciding which is attacking the mosquitoes in their early stages is also going to be implemented nationwide
Honourable Speaker, despite all these efforts and progress, there were overn11 million suspected cases recorded at the OPD in 2018. This puts the disease still the number one cause of OPD attendance in our country. This makes it one of the highest spends on health in the national budget.
We, therefore, cannot rest on our oars; we must intensify the effort because fighting malaria is like going to War. There is the need for a sustained multiple arsenal approach till eradication.
Elimination of malaria above all also requires political leadership at the highest level. The fight must begin at the highest political level and then supported adequately with resources, appropriate inter-sectoral and cross-border collaboration. I, therefore, call on my colleagues to join hands with the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and implementing agencies to boost the domestic resource mobilization agenda which is currently being pursued. Mobilizing domestic funds to complement the donor support is very key.
This will propel us along the road to elimination, and contribute to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals, especially improving maternal and child health. Despite our progress and zeal to combat malaria, we are faced with dwindling of resources and therefore, the need for increased efforts in domestic resource to fill the widening gaps that exist.
I will, therefore, call on my colleagues to join the Ghana Health service driving the domestic resource mobilization agenda higher. Let’s all contribute ideas and resources for its effective implementation. The need for closer and more intense collaboration with the MMDAs and health sector will ensure judicious use of the 0.5% District Assemblies Common Fund. These monies meant for malaria control should be used for malaria control and not something else.
We urge the Ministries of Local Government, Transport, Roads and Highways and Housing to consider the impact on malaria control as they undertake their projects. Our development projects should reduce the breeding sites for the mosquitoes to breed.
We also urge health workers to even do more in their work, all suspected malaria cases should be tested and confirmed before treatment. We need to make sure that what we are treating is really malaria.
Chiefs, there is a lot you can do, you can ensure that your people use the interventions as recommended. We need to ensure that people do not misuse the ITNs which have been bought with scarce resources.
We as Parliamentarians and specifically the Select Committee on Health will continue the advocate to ensure the availability of resources to implement the needed malaria control interventions in the country. Within our constituencies, we should support the implementation of these interventions.
This year’s theme calls for re-ignition of the grassroots movements in which individuals, families, communities, religious leaders, private sector, political leaders, and other members of society pledge commitment and take responsibility in the fight against malaria.
Let us intensify our efforts in the fight against malaria. A malaria-free Ghana is possible. Zero malaria starts with me, with you and with us all.