The Ghana Health Service (GHS) in the Upper East Region on Saturday began administering the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) therapy to children aged three to 59 months in the Region.
The first round of treatment out of four rounds of the SMC exercise would be implemented in all Districts for a period of seven days, beginning July 25 2020.
The children would be given Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP) plus Amodiaquine (AQ) by health professionals in 1,425 communities across the Region.
Dr Winfred Ofosu, the Upper East Regional Director of the GHS at a media and stakeholder engagement on SMC in Bolgatanga, explained that SMC was the intermittent administration of full treatment courses of anti- malarial medicines during the malaria season.
The aim of the exercise was to maintain the anti-malarial drug concentrations in the blood of children throughout the rainy season during which health facilities recorded high malaria cases in children.
According to him, the SMC intervention was recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective, cost-effective, well tolerated and feasible to reducing malaria mortality, but cautioned that SMC was not be administered to children less than three months old or more than 59 months.
He emphasized that sick children with uncomplicated or severe malaria at the time of SMC administration were not be given the treatment, “These children must be referred to a health centre for care, using the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) guidelines. Mothers must be advised to be available after 30 days for the next round of SMC treatment.”
The Director stressed that HIV positive children on co-trimoxazole, children with severe acute or chronic illness or unable to take oral medication and those who had received a dose of SP, Artesunate Amodiaquine or other drugs containing Sulfonamide in the last 30 day had to be given an appointment for the next round of treatment.
He said there were changes in the implementation of the exercise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, insisting health professionals would adopt non-contact channels and platforms for Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) activities.
Dr Ofosu said health professionals would not compromise on the COVID-19 protocols, especially the wearing of face masks, regular hand washing for volunteers and supervisors.
The Ghana News Agency (GNA) in its quest to assess the rate of malaria admissions at some health facilities observed that admissions at some Paediatric Units of hospitals had increased, which is a usual phenomenon during rainy seasons.
At the Paediatric Unit of the Upper East Regional hospital which is the Region’s major referral centre for instance, the GNA was told by nurses no duty that most of the children on admission came with malaria, while some were unconscious as a result of malaria complications.
At the Zebilla District hospital which has two Children’s wards referred to as “Old” and “New” children’s wards all the beds in the two wards were full, with most of the cases being malaria.
A nurse at one of the units who pleaded anonymity told the GNA that, “We in this District need the SMC more, in fact they should start from here”.