Dr Keziah Malm, the Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), on Thursday said although Ghana has made great achievements over the past years in its malaria mortality targets, infection rates remain high.
She said the disease continued to be of great public health importance to Ghana, saying: “We have interventions, which have proven to work, but it is not being implemented at optimum levels due to inadequate resources.”
Malaria elimination in Ghana is predicted to cost 961 million dollars between 2020 and 2029, and uptake of effective interventions was estimated to prevent 85.5 million cases, save 4,468 lives, and avert 2.2 billion dollars in health system expenditure.
She said Ghana was on track to making impact and move into elimination with effective collaboration of all stakeholders including public and private sectors, and personal commitments towards the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me, Let’s Draw the Line,” campaign because it affected everyone.
Dr Malm was addressing the 2021 World Malaria Day press briefing in Accra to highlight the status of the malaria control programme implementation and also give journalists opportunity to interact to gain better understanding of the strategies, activities and statistics of malaria control in the country.
She said malaria related deaths at all ages reduced by 2,799 in 2012 to 308 by the end of 2020, signifying a 89 per cent reduction, adding: “In 2012, there was a record of only eight people dying from malaria every day, but this reduced to one death per day in 2020.”
Again, under-five malaria case fatality rate reduced by 80 percent from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 0.12 per cent in 2020 and, notwithstanding the challenges encountered, some gains were made in reducing admissions related to malaria for all ages by 28 percent from 428,000 in 2012, to 308,887 in 2020, she said.
Unfortunately, there had not been much improvements in terms of malaria cases, but then, testing for malaria cases increased from 38 percent in 2012 to 95 percent in 2020, which was a 152 per cent increase, she said.
Dr Malm also spoke about Ghana’s Malaria Strategic Plan, which spanned 2021 and 2025, geared towards reducing malaria mortality by 90 percent, while reducing malaria case incidence by 50 percent by 2025, using 2019 as baseline.
She said the Strategic Plan further sought to achieve malaria pre-elimination in at least six districts by 2025, adding that the country was at its control phase of the programme and, therefore, sought to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality to a locally acceptable level through deliberate efforts using preventive and curative tools available.
The Malaria Vaccine implementation coverage was also going well, she said, and mentioned other ongoing interventions as the distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets, Indoor Residual Spraying, Larval Source Management, Intermittent Preventive Treatment, Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention, and Case Management Diagnosis and Treatment.
Dr Malm called for the need to improve procurement and supply chain, cross-cutting interventions including research, surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, and ensure effective social and behaviour change communication targeted especially at endemic communities.
She said the Programme had encountered challenges such as dwindling donor funding and the notion that malaria was a less dangerous disease caused people to attach less seriousness to it, which had contributed to the low uptake of malaria control interventions.
There was also the issue of fear due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so people were not reporting to health facilities for treatment, Dr Malm said.
She said although low Insecticide Treated Bed-nets use through access was improving, it was important to intensify behavioural change communication at the community level to sustain the gains made.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, reiterated the call for strengthened partnerships by all stakeholders to embrace and support any strategy put in place to achieve targets.
He implored the media as key partners in the fight against malaria, to use their platforms to educate the public on the various interventions to increase use and uptake of the effective interventions.
Dr Edward Botchwey, the Executive Director in Charge of Finance at Ecobank Ghana and Anglophone West Africa, said the impact of malaria was estimated to cost Africa 12 billion dollars annually, in terms of cost of healthcare, absenteeism, days lost in education, decreased productivity and loss of investment and tourism.
He pledged the Bank’s sustained commitment towards the malaria elimination campaign and announced its plans to launch the Zero Malaria Business Leaders Initiative to fully mobilise the private sector to support efforts to eliminate malaria in Ghana.