The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified Ghana as one of the 10 highest malaria-endemic countries in sub- Saharan Africa.

According to the WHO 2018 malaria report, 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, as well as India, accounted for the bulk malaria cases and deaths globally.

It named the other malaria-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa as Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

This was made known by the WHO Country Representative, Dr Owen Kaluwa, at the 2019 World Malaria Day (WMD) celebration in Somanya in the Eastern Region yesterday.

2019 World Malaria Day

Commemorated every April 25, WMD highlights the need for sustained investment and political commitment for malaria prevention, control and elimination.

Yesterday’s event, which was chaired by the Bornya Divisional Chief-Sawer, Nene Ayiteye Ayiboku II, was on the theme: “Zero malaria starts with me.”

It placed emphasis on country ownership and community empowerment of malaria prevention and care.

Dr Kaluwa said the WHO wanted to see member states allocate adequate resources to malaria prevention, work across sectors and strengthen cross-border collaboration.

“With the required resources, strong coordination and dedicated partners, we can accelerate our actions to achieve a malaria-free Africa,” he said.

First Lady rallies stakeholders

The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who gave the keynote address to commemorate the day, urged stakeholders to prioritise resources and ensure their judicious use.

“Our health facility records show that one person died every day in 2018, as compared to eight in 2012.

We know that these successes are as a result of the investments made by all of us: donors, partners, community, health workers and the government,” she said.

She expressed the conviction that it was possible to achieve zero malaria, saying that globally, more countries were moving towards zero indigenous cases.

She said in 2017, more countries reported fewer than 10,000 cases, as compared to 2016 and 2010.

The number of countries with less than 100 indigenous cases, which is a strong indicator that elimination was within reach, increased from 15 countries in 2010 to 24 countries in 2016, and 26 countries in 2017.

Inaction and complacency

Mrs Akufo-Addo who said she was sad to see Ghana listed among the 10 African countries with a high burden of malaria urged: “We also can do it if we all work together and follow guidelines established by the WHO and our national strategy.”

She pointed out, however, that “before we can do so, it is important to acknowledge the challenges we need to deal with.”

“We do know that some factors contributing to our stagnation today are out of our control, but there are a lot more factors that are within our control. We can start from there and progress towards zero malaria cases in Ghana,” she added.

She identified inaction and complacency as the greatest threats to the fight against malaria and said, “the tendency to celebrate our successes and then go into inertia is unacceptable.

We cannot afford to be complacent, because malaria is not complacent.

It attacks and attacks. The only way we can defeat it, is to act decisively, consistently and relentlessly in a coordinated and efficient manner.”

Dwindling funding

Another significant challenge, she noted, was the dwindling and insufficient domestic and international funding, resulting in gaps in the implementation of interventions at all levels.

The First Lady said the situation had made the need to mobilise domestic resources more urgent now than it was before.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, said the government was committed to supporting the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to mobilise the needed funding to implement various proven strategies on malaria prevention.

He said much of the gains had been due to both human and financial investments, as well as strong multi-sectorial collaboration with stakeholders.

However, he said there was a need to take another look at the government’s focus on primary health care and individual responsibility in the fight against malaria.

Universal Health Care

The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, also in a speech read on his behalf, said the vision of the service was to ensure a healthy population with universal access to quality health service.

However, he said, “given the reality of our present situation, it is clear that to achieve this, the service needs to do a lot of things differently than we are doing at present in order to win the fight against malaria and other diseases.”

The Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme, Dr Keziah Malm, said the programme had intensified actions in recent years to bring malaria under control.

She said currently, the country was implementing major interventions such as the “Intermittent Prevention Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp), Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) and Larviciding on a limited scale,” which were significantly known to be very effective against malaria.

The Health Office Director, USAID-Ghana, Ms Janean Davis, on behalf of the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), said as a global community, “we have achieved remarkable success.

Together, we have cut malaria mortality by half in sub-Saharan Africa and saved over seven million lives since 2000.”

She said the PMI had partnered with Ghana to fight malaria since 2008 by funding core malaria interventions and providing valuable technical and operational assistance to reinforce and amplify Ghana’s efforts to end the “deadly but entirely preventable disease.”