By Grace Q. Bryant
The Ministry of Health data shows a 15% decrease in the number of confirmed malaria cases during the last five years (2017- 2021) from over a million confirmed malaria cases to around 900, 000 in 2021.
The Malaria Program Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO), Moses Jenrocon, explained that the past year has seen significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and that there have been landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria late last year.
“This vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings,” he emphasized.
He said this year’s theme, “Harnesses innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives” and aligns with a call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.
He noted, “While this is a groundbreaking advance in the development of new tools to fight this disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited. As such, it is important to ensure that the doses that are available are utilized for maximum impact, while ensuring continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.”
He explained that malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge recounting that in the last year, about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region, along with 602 020 reported deaths. Six of that countries felt the worst-impacted by malaria in the region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55% of cases globally and for 50% of these deaths.
According to him, despite some slowing of progress to reduce malaria cases and deaths, and the disruptions to health services caused by COVID-19, the world is still much further ahead than it was in 2000 pointing out, “We need to reignite that momentum and build on the recent advances.”
“For example, seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns were implemented as planned in 2021, ensuring protection for an additional 11.8 million children. Indoor residual spraying was also carried out, and long-lasting insecticidal nets distributed, largely as planned,” he maintained.
He said the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people catching and dying from malaria. This requires a focus on research and on leveraging available evidence to ensure that the targeted interventions are an efficient use of resources, which produce measurable results.
“We also need to work on drug and insecticide resistance, as well as focus on new strains of malaria arising in the Region, which are more difficult to detect, and treat,” he expressed.
“I personally, and the WHO Regional Office in Africa, remain fully committed to the fight against malaria. I believe we can overcome the challenge if we collaborate closely with governments, partners and communities,” he added.
The Health office Director of USAID, Jessica Healey, the world malaria day should not only remind everyone to refocus their efforts in malaria control but also to take note of the achievements.
However, speaking at a joint program marking the official observance of World Malaria Day 2022 held under the auspices of the Ministry of Health in collaboration with malaria partners, Madam Healey said malaria affects more than just the health of individuals.
She told those in attendance which included representatives of the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Breaking Action for Social & Behavior Change, Plan International, USAID , CDC, LAST MILE HEALTH, UNICEF and World Health Organization as well as government officials and several other partners that malaria imposes substantial socio-economic costs on families, communities and the government.
She maintained that since 2008, the US Government has procured over 3.6 million bed nets to prevent malaria, 22 million malaria rapid diagnostic tests to confirm malaria infection before treatment, 27 million medicines to treat malaria and 2.8 million drugs to prevent malaria infections in pregnant women.
Madam Healey assured that the US Government’s PMI and Global fund being the two major donors supporting malaria control in Liberia are pleased to be part of such partnership noting, “ We used to support malaria control directly through a government-to-government agreement and additional technical assistance in three counties. We could see progress in those counties but it was not moving the needle for Liberia so we sealed up our support to 12 counties to complement the additional three counties that received support from the World Bank.”
She further explained that the collective partnership for malaria control has moved Liberia towards malaria control and elimination and admitted that the Ministry of Health data shows a 15% decrease in the number of confirmed malaria cases from 2017- 2021 from over a million confirmed malaria cases to around 900, 000 in 2021.
She further assured that the US through its PMI will commit to advancing equity by expanding services to reach the disadvantaged and difficult to reach population stressing, “We will introduce innovation work with local partners and reach out to the private sector to build resilience and sustainability of malaria control interventions and also work with the malaria partnership and global community to move towards ending malaria in Liberia.”
The program which was held under the theme: Advance Equity, Build Resilience, End Malaria with the slogan; Zero malaria stars with me,” outside Monrovia was observed with activities including sports, awareness in the counties and a parade in Paynesville.
In the purpose of World Malaria read by the Program Manager, NMCP, Oliver J. Pratt, he said World Malaria Day 2022 is observed on April 25 to highlight the importance of everyone’s responsibility to end malaria within a generation and to make a malaria-free world and added, “Let us take a look at World Malaria Day, its 2022 theme, history, significance, and also malaria, its casual organism, and symptoms.”
He explained that according to the WHO, malaria is a preventable disease. It is also treatable, but it continues to have a devastating impact on the health and livelihoods of people across the world. There were an estimated 241 million new cases of malaria and 627,000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries in 2020. In fact, more than two-thirds of deaths were among children under five living in the African Region.
However, the Assistant Minister for Vital Statistics at the Ministry of Health, Stanford Wesseh noted that there are thousands of people who are suffering from malaria but ending malaria start with government and onwards to individuals.
He said they will ensure that the interventions reach every citizen in Liberia and promised that they will ensure that they have resilient health system with a reboot supply of anti-malaria available at every facility.
“I agreed with the slogan of this program that ‘Zero malaria starts with me’ because individually we can take necessary actions to avoid or prevent malaria,” he added.