NEWS COMMENTARY ON WORLD MOSQUITO DAY
Tuesday, 20th August 2019 should resonate in the minds of all though it has been remembered or celebrated on a very low key despite the huge knowledge it brought to bear on a very tiny insect called mosquito which has been a thorn in the flesh of humans. World Mosquito Day was instituted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases when the link between mosquito and malaria transmission was discovered by a British doctor, Sir Ronald Ross in 1897.
The day is celebrated to raise awareness on the causes of Malaria and how they can be prevented as well as raise funds for research into the cure of the disease. Again, the day offers the opportunity to celebrate the achievement of scientists and researchers globally in their bid at controlling the disease. It might interest you to know that there are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes, with some of the dangerous mosquito borne diseases being Yellow fever, Dengue fever, Zika infection malaria. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by the female anopheles mosquito. However, studies have also shown that this same female anopheles mosquito causes lymphatic filariasis also known as elephantiasis – a disease that affects the lymphatic system causing swelling of the limbs, breast and external genitals. Perhaps this specie of mosquito is now a common enemy which the National Malaria Control Program, NMCP and the Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit of the Ghana Health Service should collaborate and fight.
It is always good if you know your enemy to be able to deal with it. The NMCP has rolled out a number of interventions including the distribution of Long-Lasting Insecticide Nets, Indoor Residual Spraying, Intermittent Preventive Treatment for pregnant women, Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention, Care Management and Treatment and lately the Malaria Vaccine. The parasite seems to be very elusive. As such it behoves each individual to be concerned about their own health and that of their families especially children and take the necessary measures to prevent mosquito bites. Indeed, the theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is very significant, “Zero Malaria starts with Me”.
This involves social behavioral change, change of attitude towards everything which gives rise to contracting the disease as Ghana is known to be in the endemic zone. Malaria is no respecter of persons and when it strikes productivity suffers. It is important to get tested for malaria before treatment that is why the Rapid Diagnostic Test comes in handy for the right diagnosis to be affected, treated and adhered to for greater impact. Drug resistance is a major factor hindering malaria treatment as people or patients do not complete the full course of prescriptions. Again, poor or substandard antimalaria on the market and inadequate or lack of monitoring are also factors to be watched.
According to the NMCP, although malaria remains a major health problem, progress has been made to reduce the disease and deaths due to malaria especially in children under five years and pregnant woman. In 2018, the country recorded approximately 11 million suspected malaria cases which represented about 34.5 per cent of Out Patient Department, OPD cases. A total of 428 deaths attributable to malaria were recorded. In 2005 Ghana changed its anti-malaria drug policy from chloroquine to artemisinin-based combination therapies, ACTs as the first line drug for the management of uncomplicated malaria.
As government encourages Private sector involvement, it is good news that some private sector moves are being made with the sale of bed nets of varied shapes, colours and sizes of people’s choice. One project which needs mentioning in the efforts to control malaria is the Vector Works project, a five-year global malaria prevention project funded by the US President’s Malaria Initiative. Though the five-year mandate has ended, the project has left a lot of indelible marks as it worked to really complement existing malaria interventions especially increase in ITN distribution and usage. Private sector participation in nets usage though commercial seems to be thriving as people have bought into the idea and are patronizing it.
Institutions have also been encouraged to purchase nets for their workers and some are even purchasing nets and supplying free of charge to schools in their operational areas. As the world celebrates Sir Ronald Ross, who achieved this great scientific feat, one other renowned Scientist and Researcher in Ghana, Prof Fred Binka whose effort and that of the Research Centre he directed, the Navrongo Health Research Centre led to the use of Insecticide Treated Nets in this country need to be commended.
We say ayekoo to the Scientific and Research Community in Ghana for the tremendous achievements not forgetting the Malaria Vaccine trial which Ghana participated and has been rolled in three African countries including Ghana. May the celebration of the day encourage us all to play our part in the eradication of malaria caused by Mosquitoes.
BY THERESA OWUSU AKO, A JOURNALIST.