Malaria cases to rise by the end of Christmas

More than 10,000 malaria cases would be reported in the country's health facilities by the end of the yuletide with about 60 of them resulting in infant mortality. A report released in Accra cautioned that if immediate steps are not taken to forestall the situation, there would be loss of productivity and joyous times for families experiencing the drubbing of malaria. This was disclosed in a press statement issued on Saturday by Mr Emmanuel Fiagbey, Country Director of Voices for a Malaria-free Future (VfMfF) project, an advocacy group. The statement said targeting a malaria-free New Year was attainable through simple tasks such as getting pregnant women and children under five treated mosquito nets and to ensure that they slept under these nets. "Instead of burning orange peels and other materials to ward off mosquitoes, we should all learn to sleep under Insecticide Treated Bed Nets (ITNs) every night," it said. The statement expressed the need for the country to improve malaria treatment through the use of approved medicines such as artesunate amodiaquine or artemether-lumefantrine and dihydroatemisinine piperaquine. It called for the improvement of the referral system for complicated malaria treatment and ensuring laboratory diagnosis of the disease. The statement said it was also important to ensure that government-designated funds such as the one per cent District Assemblies Common Fund for malaria were utilised solely for malaria programmes. "Some of these funds can be used to purchase ITNs for the poor and needy and other vulnerable segments of the society," it said, adding that laboratory diagnosis should be enhanced and made widely available in health facilities throughout the country. The statement called on Ghanaians to reorient and reengage themselves in order to be effective in the fight against the devastating effects of malaria in the society. It said that there was the need to separate superstitious beliefs from the realities of the cause of malaria fever, stressing that the disease was not caused by such factors as witchcraft, starchy food, mangoes, working in the sun but the female species of anopheles mosquito, which bred in relatively clean stagnant water. It called on the public to use the festive season to reflect on what could be done to militate against the terrible consequence of the disease on the country's socio-economic development. "The celebrative atmosphere does not protect us from mosquito bites, leaving us at the mercy of more infections as we party, go to the jamborees, and engage in merry making inside and outside our homes. In the end, thousands more will yield to the malaria death squad between now and January when the euphoria had died down," it said. The statement expressed disquiet of the fact that the disease, though preventable, had become the leading cause of morbidity and death in the country accounting for more than 19 per cent of all mortality cases with 22 per cent of under five mortality, according to the 2007 World Health Report. "On the whole, an estimated 3.5 million Ghanaians will have reported at one health facility or the other due to malaria infections each year and about 20, 000 of our children would have died from malaria," it stated. Quoting from two medical researchers, the statement said "malaria infection not properly treated among pregnant women causes anaemia and also leads to miscarriages, still births, underweight babies and maternal deaths. Malaria in school children is a major cause of absenteeism and frequent episodes of severe cases may negatively impact on their learning abilities and educational attainment." It said besides the human tragedy, the burden on African economies was staggering, projected at 1.3 per cent of GDP annually in lost productivity. "This translates to an annual loss of 12 billion dollars for the entire African continent. Monies that could be channelled into other development projects being expended on a preventable ailment," it said. VfMfF is an international advocacy project which promotes effective strategies for malaria control by highlighting successful programmes and evidence-based results. It operates in Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, United States and the global partnership level, raising awareness among decision makers, forging consensus and breaking down the barriers that hamper implementation.