By Ibrahim Sorie Koroma
World Malaria Day is globally celebrated on the 25th April each year to raise awareness on malaria. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Zero Malaria – Draw the Line Against Malaria” because every malaria case is preventable and every malaria death is unacceptable.
The Honorable Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation 1, Dr. Anthony Sandi, who gave the keynote address and launched the Sierra Leone National Malaria Elimination Strategic Plan, noted that Malaria is already a disease burden in the country and it is endemic. He continued that Malaria is the leading cause of death in Sierra Leone, especially in children under-fives and pregnant women. “All efforts to eradicate malaria cannot be taken lightly,” stressed Dr. Sandi.
The Hon. Ministry recalled that some few years ago, people in remote communities misused the utilization of treated insecticide mosquito net, but however noted that that has changed with increased awareness raising efforts by the Ministry of health and its partners. He also stated that people used to attribute the cause of malaria to myths and misconceptions like sucking oranges, drinking beer, but was however happy for the gradual change in behavior by communities. He advised that though there is increased knowledge on malaria, but acquired knowledge on the disease should be backed with practice to end malaria in the country.
He further stated that there have been a lot of gains already made in the fight against Malaria, but there are challenges, and the disease still claims the lives of people, especially children under-five and pregnant women. Dr. Sandi called for more efforts to combat the disease. He added that one of the best methods to combat malaria is diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Dr. Sandi appreciated the efforts of partners and called for more support and urged community stakeholders to own the fight against malaria, as it affects everyone and its effects is felt by every development sector.
According to a message of the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, grievously writes that they in 2020 alone recorded a preventable death of 384,000 in the WHO Africa Region, Sierra Leone inclusive. He continued that despite the great progress made in malaria response, the Region accounted for 94% of both the 229 million cases and 409,000 malaria deaths reported globally in 2019. He reiterated that between 2000 and 2019, malaria incidence declined by 29% and deaths by 60%. More than 1.2 billion cases and 7.1 million deaths were averted in the region.
Countries like Cape Verde, the Gambia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana have been certified malaria free. Sierra Leone can also achieve this with gains already made and increased support and community participation.
In his remarks, the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, David Reimer reference the last Malaria Indicator Surrey showing a disease prevalence of 40% among children and malaria accounts for 47% of clinic visitation of children and responsible for 38% of all hospitalized patients, killing 18% of those hospitalized.
The US Ambassador referenced that in 2017, Sierra Leone was selected to benefit from the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Implementation, together with the US Centers for Diseases Prevention and Control (CDC), to which the US Government has invested $ 60 million over the past 4 years to prevent and treat malaria in the country. “During that period we have delivered more than 3 million bed nets, 2.5 million Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) and 2 million doses of fast-acting treatment for malaria” added the US Ambassador.
He assured that they were going to continue their support to the fight against malaria and they and the Ministry of Health were going to launch the Indoor Residual Spraying (IDR), which is a new malaria preventive intervention to be piloted in BO and Bombali districts.
In another development, with support from the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, through the National Malaria Control Programme, will embark on an Indoor Residual Spraying as a preventive intervention for malaria in Bo and Bombali districts in May and June this year.
Sister Wan C. Lahai, Principal Public Health Sister, who doubles as the Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Focal at the National Malaria Control Programme in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, said that Indoor Residual Spraying is one of those measures used to prevent malaria in households and communities, adding that they were going to pilot IRS in Bo and Bombali as the prevalence of malaria is higher in rural settings than in the urban.