The Ghana Health Services (GHS) has observed the 2017 World Malaria Day in Accra on the theme: “End Malaria For Good; Invest in Malaria Prevention”, with a call to boost investments for prevention, to propel countries along the path of elimination.
Dr Constance Bart-Plange, the Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in a presentation said Ghana had made significant progress in the fight against malaria over the past decade as evidenced by the decrease in the national prevalence rate from high level of over 50 per
cent in 2012 to 20.4 per cent in 2016.
She said malaria-related deaths in all ages reduced from 3,882 in 2010 to 1,264 in 2016, translating into about 4. 2 per cent, and there had also been a major decline in malaria cases and deaths by 75 per cent over the years.
She further explained that in terms of the malaria specific mortality level, out of every 100 children admitted for the illness, fewer numbers were dying, saying in technical terms, the under-five malaria case fatality rate had been dropping consistently showing a reduction from 14.4 per cent in 2000 to 0.32 per cent in 2016.
Dr Bart-Plange attributed these successes to the various strategies and interventions including the nationwide coverage of Indoor Residual Spraying, distribution and promotion of the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN), Limited Larviciding and Environmental Management, that had been pursued over the years by the GHS through the NMCP.
She said pregnant women had also been targeted with Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT) as part of the antenatal care to prevent the heavy parasitic load on placentas which leads to miscarriages, premature births and low birth weight in babies.
According to her, through sustained campaigns and education, household ownership of ITNs increased from 3.2 per cent in 2003 to 72 per cent in 2016, while use of ITN by children under-five also increased from a low of 3.5 per cent in 2003, to 52.3 per cent in 2016.
Again protection of pregnant women from malaria using sulphadoxin-pyrimethamine (SP) Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPTp2) uptake, had increase from 0.8 per cent in 2003 to 78 per cent in 2016.
She said working together, the government, donor agencies, health service workers, dedicated partners, civil society organisations, traditional and community leaders and communities had reached millions of Ghanaians with effective malaria control strategies, supported by massive deployment of logistics, such as the Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets, Rapid Diagnostic Test (RTD) Kits, and Artemisinin Based Combination Therapy (ACTs).
Yet, malaria which was a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of an infective female anopheles mosquito was still endemic in Ghana and remained a public health concern, which affected all ages of people, with pregnant women and children under five years being at a higher risk of being infected and dying.
Dr Bart-Plange said these achievements could not have been chalked without the collective efforts of leadership and partnership, to harness the efforts and resources needed to address malaria in an effective, sustainable and accountable manner.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the Minister of Health, in a speech read on his behalf, said the malaria fight was one of the most inspiring health stories resulting from great investments and strong partnerships leading to the dramatic progress against disease over the years.
However, there remained gaps in funding, the challenges including behavioural change, adherence to country diagnosis protocol, compliance to treatment and resistance to anti-malarials, he said.
He pledged government’s commitment to support the domestic mobilisation of funding to implement the various proven strategies, and called on all stakeholders and players to collaborate with the health sector in accelerating efforts towards investing in the future and defeating malaria.