Ghana celebrated the success story of the hang up campaign which has seen the distribution of more than 12 million treated nets between 2010 and 2012. Perhaps the 1st Lady Mrs Lordina Mahama hit the nail right on the head when she entreated people with the treated nets not to make them a show piece but use them for the intended purpose, in order to prevent contracting malaria and possible deaths. Indeed the interventions rolled up by the National Malaria Control Programme and partners are yielding some results in that records are now showing reduction in malaria deaths. The WHO says 16 thousand deaths have been averted nationwide. Again, according to the Multi Indicator Cluster Survey, malaria prevalence in children has also reduced. All these are as a result of multi faceted interventions. The interventions are the hang-up campaign where insecticide bed nets are hung in peoples’ rooms to make sure they sleep under them, use of Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RTDs) to confirm malaria before diagnosing and the use of Artemisinin – Based Combination Therapy (ACTs). In order to maintain and further deepen the gains made through the Hang-up strategy, Ghana has adopted the Continuous Distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide NETs.
The continuous distribution concept seeks to utilize existing structures and channels and will see children in Primary 2 and 6 nationwide receiving free nets to be rolled out in June. This is significant because malaria can cause absenteeism from school and low academic performance due to poor brain function, including permanent brain damage, epilepsy and other crippling physical disability. This initiative perhaps sums up the theme for this year 2013 up to 2015, “Invest in the future to defeat malaria”. The WHO, says the use of the Long Lasting Insecticide Nets is the best way to prevent malaria as they protect people from being bitten by the female anopheles mosquito. It is therefore important for people to take very good care of the insecticide treated nets. Up to 20 gentle washes with mild soap, dried in a shade away from direct sunlight is all that is needed as well as sewing when they get torn. This will make them to last longer. A lot of people have complained of heat when they sleep in the nets. While some may consider this as a flimsy excuse, it is equally important to reconsider the materials used for the nets since in our part of the world there are high temperatures.
We also welcome the initiative of corporate bodies in the nation’s sustained drive to fight malaria. These Organisations are rising to the challenge of helping to prevent malaria as they have realised that contracting malaria tends to have dire consequences on productivity. These organisations with support from the Johns Hopkins Malaria Project have developed and launched Malaria Control Strategies for their workers and families. They include the VRA, GRA and the Volta River Estates Limited. It is hoped other organisations will come on board so that, there will be concerted effort to help fight malaria. The issue of fake anti-malarial drugs should not be taken lightly because of the major threat they pose to effective treatment of malaria. Health authorities say malaria is becoming difficult to treat due to drug resistance and counterfeit or substandard malaria drugs. It is therefore heartwarming that Ghana’s long standing partner, the US, is ready to help deal with the fake drug issue.
The US Ambassador Gene Cretz at yesterday’s World Malaria Day celebration said Ghana will be supported with a Counterfeit Detective Device known as CD-3. This is a hand held, battery operated tool designed to detect counterfeit or substandard anti-malarial drugs. The device is expected in Ghana this year. Now that the rains have set in, it is necessary to ensure that the environment is free of stagnant water which remains one of the breeding grounds for anopheles mosquitoes. We need to turn attention to prevent stagnant water in open gutters, potholes and flower pots at home. Open storage water tanks should be covered. Let’s all join hands to ensure a malaria free society.
BY: THERESA OWUSU AKO, A JOURNALIST .