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 as a day for recognising the global effort to provide effective control of malaria. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Counting Malaria Out”.
The day provides an opportunity for countries in the affected regions to learn from one another’s experiences and support one another’s efforts; for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria; for research and academic institutions to flag their scientific advances to both experts and the general public; and for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has worked.
Worldwide, malaria causes an estimated one million deaths each year and nearly 90 per cent of these deaths occur among young children in Africa, which include Ghana.
As part of the celebration, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), under the umbrella of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and other health related organisations,embarked on a series of programmes throughout the country.
At the Ghana Health Service (GHS) monthly forum organised in Accra to commemorate the day,the Medical Entomologist of NMCP, Dr Aba (Mrs) Baffoe-Wilmot said Ghana was still at the control stage of malaria programme as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
She explained that was the first step in the fight against the disease,adding that the second stage was the pre-elimination and then elimination, while the third stage was eradication, which must cover all areas in the world where malaria existed.
She pointed out that the country was doing well in the control of the disease because recorded cases at the Out Patient Department had reduced from 49.5 per cent in 2001 to 30.0 per cent in 2009.
Dr Baffoe-Wilmot identified some challenges facing the fight against the disease and mentioned low Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) usage, although ownership of the product was high.
Other setbacks according to her, were wrong diagnosis, leading to wrong treatment and over-consumption of anti-malaria medicine; the continuous prescription of monotherapy by health professionals, as well as ignorance and misconceptions about the disease.
She said current strategies to control malaria included indoor residual spraying, environmental management and targeted larviciding, ITN for children under five and pregnant women, free distribution of the nets during mass immunisation days and Directly Observed Therapy for pregnant women.
On treatment strategies, Dr Bafoe-Wilmot noted that treatment had been largely based on presumption diagnosis, but now the programme was encouraging diagnosis by microscopy before treatment and drugs for simple and uncomplicated malaria, which include; Aetesunate-amodiaquine; artermether-lumefantrine and Dihydro-artsemisinin pieraquine.
To commemorate the day, a release from the Roll Back Malaria initiative indicated that approximately, half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries.
It pointed out that the disease infected more than 500 million people per year and killed more than one million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe.
A release from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that April 25 was a day of unified commemoration of the global effort to provide effective control of malaria around the world.
For his part,the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said this year's World Malaria Day marked a critical moment in time because “the international malaria community has less than a year to meet the 2010 targets of delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria”.