By Goodluck Musinguzi
The Government of Uganda through its robust Ministry of Health has made the fight against Malaria disease high on the political agenda. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been at the forefront when he launched the “Kick Malaria Out of Uganda” campaign at Parliament in 2018.
He said he agreed with the idea of creating a fund to fight malaria. “If you raise funds from private sector, the government can contribute. We could fund scientists to deepen their research. It should aim at eliminating the mosquito,” he said.
In 20202, “Zero malaria starts with me”, this grassroots campaign aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.
As COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world, World Health Organization urges countries to ensure the continuity of malaria prevention, treatment and control services.
The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the resilience and robustness of health systems around the world. Recognizing the heavy toll that malaria exacts on vulnerable populations in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the region’s fragile health infrastructure, WHO underlines the critical importance of sustaining efforts to detect, prevent and treat malaria.
Uganda reports 767 malaria-related deaths were reported in the quarter of April to June 2020. This is 72 (8%) deaths less than those reported in the previous quarter. The overall mortality rate this quarter increased to
3 per 100,000 from 2 per 100,000 the previous quarter.
Compared to the same quarter the previous year, there were 168 deaths less this quarter. Districts with the highest mortality (per 100,000 population) include Nabilatuk (18), Hoima (13), Nebbi (12), Adjumani
(12), Masaka (11.6), Isingiro (10.6), and Mbale (7.3).
Malaria cases increased from 1 million in June 2018 to 1.4 million by June 2019, a situation the government said has been exacerbated by climate change, failure by the public to properly use insecticide treated bed nets and a low prevalence of the disease in some areas, leading to laxity in using available preventative tools.
Dr Diana Atwine, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health said they delayed to distribute long lasting treated mosquito nets because of COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the World.
Dr Diana Atwine, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health flagged of the exercise of replacing aging mosquito nets with new ones
“We had planned to give out the treated mosquito nets in the third quarter of financial year 2019/2020(January, February and March) but the pressure of COVID-19 was evident”, said Dr Diana.
Our target is to distribute 27 million mosquito nets to every household so that we reduce malaria to zero. We have already started with Wave One and Two.
In 2018, Uganda became the first of 11 countries which account for the highest burden of malaria disease in the World to launch a targeted malaria control response.
This was a global campaign to reduce cases and deaths caused by malaria by at least 40 per cent by 2020 and subsequently by 75 per cent by 2025.
“People living in areas with low malaria prevalence such as Kampala and the highlands of Kigezi and Mount Elgon are prone to severe malaria due to low immunity. It is therefore important that they protect themselves whenever they travel to high malaria transmission areas,” said Dr Ruth Aceng, Health Minister.
She also noted that seasonal rain in the months of April to June have contributed to the peak of cases in the past few weeks. Despite the figures, the ministry says it is making progress in tackling the disease, having reduced malaria related deaths from 5,100 in 2017 to 3200 annually in 2018.
Malaria prevalence has also dropped from 42 per cent in 2009 to 9 per cent this year.
So far, the malaria upsurge has affected 65 districts in the country — especially in the West Nile, Northern and central regions. But Dr Aceng said the current numbers reported in areas such as Kampala is similar to cases of the disease that was reported in the same period in 2018.
“In Kampala during the month of June 2019, we registered 27,159 cases of malaria compared with 28,086 registered in the same month the previous year. However, the number of severe forms of malaria requiring admission has increased by 60 per cent compared with the same period in 2018,” Dr Aceng noted.
Uganda remains one of 11 countries that account for 70 per cent of all malaria cases globally. Other countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and India.