By Rachel Kakraba
Regional Malaria Elimination Focal Point of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa, Dr Ebenezer Baba, says the African Region has made giant strides in its malaria elimination strategies.
He noted that although the region continues to carry the bulk of the global malaria disease burden, there are regional imbalances leading to higher cases in some areas than others. This he attributed to population differences and climatic conditions, among others.
“Looking at the WHO Africa region in relation to the global burden of disease, we still carry the bulk of the malaria burden, but the story is not complete because we find that in certain locations in our region, the burden has been reported to be relatively higher, some for the simple reason as population differences, others in relation to the enabling environment for the vectors that transmit malaria, and as such, you will have some concentration of cases and deaths in some areas.
Dr. Baba said this during a virtual summit organised by the African Media Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) to commemorate this year’s World Mosquito Day. The day is observed annually on August 20 to recognise Sir Ronald Ross, who demonstrated the link between mosquitoes and malaria transmission in 1897. The discovery triggered a shift towards more efficient prevention and treatment of the disease. He said malaria elimination efforts in the region have improved, which has led to high accessibility of malaria interventions.
“We’ve had situations in the past two decades where very few individuals had access to treatment and preventive measures. For instance, in the issue relating to the individuals who have access to mosquito nets and the use of these nets, we have made significant progress. In the areas of delivery of interventions such as Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention which is commonly implemented in some regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, we’ve had significant increase in access to these interventions as well as interventions relating to Preventive Chemotherapy among pregnant women.”
For her part, Executive Secretary, African Media Malaria Research Network, AMMREN, Dr. Charity Binka, convenor of the summit, stated that commemorating World Mosquito Day is an opportunity for experts to chart a new course towards malaria elimination.
“We are not celebrating mosquitoes, but we want to remember the day it was recognised that a scientist, the great Dr. Ross, found out that mosquitoes have everything to do with malaria. In fact, this day has been celebrated longer than World Malaria Day, so we at the African Media and Malaria Research Network chose this day to gather journalists from across Africa and probably beyond Africa for us to have a conversation around the elimination agenda.”
Dr. Binka added, “we believe that malaria can be eliminated because we have all the available tools.”