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Winning The Battles On Malaria

Posted: Sep 20, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Yinka Shokunbi LAGOS

Monica couldn’t understand why she couldn’t feel any taste from the cookies her sister brought to mark her birthday. She always loved cookies. Much as she tried hard to even entertain her few guests, she couldn’t hide the fever that was beginning to show and this caught the attention of the sister who suggested that the family doctor be invited.

Cycle of malaria

Cycle of malaria

A diagnosis was soon carried out and Monica tested positive to the malaria parasite and was placed under treatment for four days.  Monica survived the bout of malaria because there was prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Since not all fevers are due to malaria, parasitological confirmation by light microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) is recommended in all patients before antimalarial treatment is started.

Fifteen years ago, precisely 2000, global leaders identified malaria as a serious public health challenge and one of the biggest impediments to global development, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.

In 2000, malaria caused an estimated 262 million cases and 839 000 deaths. More than 80% of cases and 90% of deaths reportedly occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where children aged under 5 years are particularly prone to severe disease and death. It is estimated that, in 2000, malaria was responsible for 12% of all child deaths in the post-neonatal period and 22% in sub-Saharan Africa.

And so, at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, they pledged to halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015 – a critical global target of the Millennium Development Goals.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced their achievements in fifteen years saying, with renewed interventions on the disease, an achievement of 60% death reduction has been achieved around the world while malaria incidence also fell by 37% globally.

In the newly published report titled: ‘Achieving the Malaria MDG Target – Reversing the Incidence of Malaria 2000–2015’ co-authored by the WHO and UNICEF, 13 countries reported zero cases of malaria within their own borders while only six countries reported fewer than 10 cases.

In absolute terms, about 6.2m were reportedly saved over the last 15 years.

According to the foreword written by the duo of Executive Director UNICEF,  Anthony Lake and Director General WHO, Margaret Chan, between 2000 and 20015, 2000, the scourge of malaria was battled using a three-pong approach of encouraging the use of insecticide treated nets, (one billion of these was distributed), The introduction of rapid diagnostic tests which made it possible to distinguish more quickly between malarial and non-malarial fevers – enabling more timely and appropriate treatment and the use of Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) which have been highly effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans.

From the report therefore, at the turn of 2015, an estimated 68 per cent of under-fives in sub-Saharan Africa were sleeping under insecticide-treated nets, compared to less than 2 per cent in 2000.

Consequently, in the 15 year period, the rate of children below the age of five who died as a result of malaria fell by 65% and the UN bodies noted that malaria control has remained one of the first great public health success stories of the millennium albeit, the work to get to the end of the battle is still far from being finished.

A key recognizable challenge to winning the battle has been in access to malaria prevention, diagnostic testing and treatment, especially for children under five and pregnant women especially in the sub-Saharan region.