Malaria treatment services must continue amid COVID-19

A health advocacy group, Youth Leaders for Health – Ghana on Thursday urged African governments to ensure that access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services are not disrupted as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has, therefore, called on the continent’s leaders to invest more in strengthening the health systems that are key to the fight against malaria and COVID-19.

A statement issued by the group and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation analysis indicated that seven Commonwealth countries were already on the verge of achieving the target to halving malaria by 2023.

The countries are: The Gambia, Belize, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic would negatively impact these Commonwealth countries in achieving this target.

The statement said in 2017, 19 Commonwealth countries recorded an increase in malaria incidence, with the number of deaths from the disease increasing in 15 countries.

During this time, Commonwealth countries accounted for over half of the estimated 435,000 deaths from malaria, a situation it explained reinforced the important contribution the Commonwealth could make towards achieving global malaria targets.

The statement further explained that sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than 90 per cent of global malaria cases and deaths.

It said in 2018, nearly 900,000 children in 38 African countries were born with a low birth weight due to malaria in pregnancy, while children under five still accounted for two-thirds of all malaria deaths worldwide.

“In the time of COVID-19, it is critical that existing services and interventions are not disrupted,” it stated.

The group pledged its support as a partner and stakeholder to end malaria epidemic, achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and create lasting impact.