GHANA will, by August this year, introduce a system that will significantly reduce the cost of medicines for the effective treatment of malaria from GH¢10 to GH¢3 for the next two years.
Other countries to benefit from the initiative are Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
Dubbed, Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMF-m), the project is an innovative financing mechanism to expand access to affordable Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for the treatment of malaria, thereby saving lives and reducing the use of inappropriate treatment.
The initiative will facilitate the increased use of ACT by reducing the cost of those drugs in malaria-endemic countries and also ensuring that additional activities are carried out to assist in the safe and effective implementation of AFM-m.
This was made known in Accra when the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programmes Voices for Malaria-free Future Project organised a day’s briefing session for journalists as part of this year’s World Malaria Day.
Addressing the participants, a Programme Officer of the NMCP (Northern Zone), Mr Sylvester Segbaya, said the initiative was to help people suffering from malaria have access to inexpensive but effective recommended anti-malaria treatment.
He said it was also to promote the use of effective anti-malaria drugs and push away ineffective medicines from the market by reducing the consumer prices of effective medicines to an affordable level.
Mr Segbaya said AFM-m had the potential of introducing in-country supporting interventions to ensure that those suffering from malaria benefited from the reduced price.
He stated that progress towards the achievement of the goals and objectives of AFM-m in the country would be measured by increased affordability, availability and use of ACT, as well as pushing away from the market Arteminisin mono-therapies which were less effective and had the potential of causing drug resistance.
Speaking on the topic, “Adopting Effective Malaria Medication in Ghana”, an official of the NMCP, Mr James Frimpong, stated that Ghana moved away from the use of the mono-therapy malaria medicines it was using previously to the ACT because research had indicated that the ACT aided the rapid reduction in the parasite load in the blood and it had fewer side effects, if any.
The Communication Officer of the NMCP, Mr Kwame D. Gakpey, said as part the country’s efforts to control malaria, many strategies had been put in place, including behavioural change communication strategy to guide the development, implementation and monitoring of activities to ensure success.
For his part, the Country Director of the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programmes Voices for Malaria-free Future Project, Mr Emmanuel Fiagbey, urged journalists to support fully the effort to control malaria, since the disease affected the achievement of almost all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Chairperson for the workshop, who is also the Programme Manager of the NMCP, Dr Mrs Constance Bart-Plange, reiterated the need for doctors not to conclude that all fever cases were malaria but they must conduct the appropriate testing before treatment.
The World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25 each year, was instituted by the World Health Assembly at its 60th session in May 2007. It is a day for recognising the global effort to provide effective control for malaria.
In a related development, the Ministry of Health is to set up a committee to probe the alleged malfeasance that characterised the withdrawal of expired drugs from health facilities in the country, reports Seth J. Bokpe.
The Minister of Health, Dr Benjamin Kunbour, made this known when addressing the opening ceremony of the Ghana Health Summit 2010 and the launch of the World Malaria Day 2010.
He said investigations conducted into the matter indicated that more often than not drugs that were said to have expired and which had to be withdrawn from the warehouses were found on shelves in pharmacy shops, with nothing to show that the drugs had expired.
He said persons found culpable would be dealt with to serve as a deterrent to anyone whose action undermined the health sector and to also save the country the millions of cedis that went down the drain.
The Ghana Health Summit is an annual conference under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and donor partners and it takes stock of developments in the health sector, review performances and make recommendations to improve the health sector.
He said the mismanagement that had become the bane of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) called for a benchmark for public spending to ensure that the policy was of benefit to the people.
The Health Minister pledged the government’s commitment to the one-time premium for health insurance in the country, which he indicated would be implemented.
He said even though the funding gap remained the greatest challenge to implementing the one-time premium, avenues, including uprooting corruption, would ensure that the country achieved the needed results.
Dr Kunbour said more midwives would be trained as part of measures to improve the midwifery deficit in the country.
He called for holistic and co-ordinated interventions to deal with challenges posed by malaria to the health of the people and the economy.
According to the Ghana Health Service, 8,200 malaria cases are reported in Ghana daily, with 4,500 deaths, 1,500 under-five deaths, while 60 pregnant women die from the disease annually.
It has been estimated that the annual economic burden in Africa is $1.7 billion, while a single bout of malaria cost a sum equivalent of over 10 working days in Africa.
The Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Stig Barlyng, noted that even though the country had achieved a lot in the health sector over the past few years, the doctor-patient ratio in the northern part of the country needed to be worked on to curtail the disparities that characterised the distribution of doctors.
He stressed the need for the leadership of the MoH and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and its agencies to establish a new policy framework adapted to the changing dynamics of drug procurement and distribution, funds collection and reimbursement across the multiple agencies and the levels of the health system.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Betty Mould-Iddrisu, who chaired the function, called for co-ordinated efforts to deal with infant and maternal mortality in the country to save lives.
In yet another development, Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho reports that the General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey, has stated that the fight against malaria can be won if researchers and scientists go beyond the “ivory tower” publications and simplified their findings for the public good.
At a seminar for media practitioners as part of activities to mark this year’s World Malaria Day, he said to achieve that, it was imperative for scientists to acquire communications skills and for journalists who were interested in science to specialise in it.
“Scientists should no longer feel comfortable just by publishing their results and papers in ’Ivory Tower’ bulletins and journalists can no longer be comfortable with neutral reporting on events. We must both go beyond our comfort zones and beyond the mundane calls of our professional duties,” he said.
The seminar, which was organised by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), in collaboration with the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Population and their Health in Developing Countries (INDEPTH) network, the Dodowa Health Research Centre and the Malaria Clinical Trial Alliance (MCTA), brought together science journalists from the print and the electronic media.
Speaking on the topic: “Linking science with journalism”, Dr Sodzi-Tettey said when scientists were able to acquire communication skills, they would be able to interpret their findings in a way that would make them easier for journalists to understand, while a journalist with a scientific background would be able to write in simple language for the ordinary person to understand.
He said it was the duty of journalists to ensure that there was behavioural change among their audience, saying that journalists were key to ensuring that people understood what they put across.
The Programme Manager of the NMCP, Dr Bart-Plange, in an update on malaria control in Ghana, said malaria continued to be one of the leading causes of death among children.
The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Dr Alex Dodoo, called on journalists to ensure that they were always abreast of current trends so that they could inform and educate their communities effectively.
The Executive Director of AMMREN, Mrs Charity Binka, called on journalists to ensure that they put issues across that would hold their leaders accountable.
She challenged journalists to ask critical questions that would help put the government on its toes.