‘Malaria kills more than any other disease’- Deputy Manager of Malaria Control Program
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Deputy Program Manager for the National Malaria Control Program in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has stated that malaria is killing Sierra Leoneans more than any other disease.
“People are afraid of HIV-AIDS and the Coronavirus pandemic but the truth is Malaria is killing our people, especially pregnant women and children on a daily basis. This is the more reason why the government through the ministry is taking the campaign on the elimination of malaria very serious,” Dr. Alhaji Sayni Turay said.
He was speaking on Tuesday September 1, 2020 during a meeting hosted by the National Malaria Control Program, Speak Up Africa and the Heath Reporters Network Sierra Leone to assess progress made by the Malaria Media Coalition Sierra Leone chapter on the “Zero Malaria Starts with me” campaign since it was launched in February this year.
The country’s Demographic Health survey for 2016-2020 indicated that malaria is still the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, describing it as an endemic with stable and perennial transmission which account for 40 percent prevalence in the country.
Dr. Turay noted that the number of malaria related deaths in the country is increasing despite the many interventions from partners like Speak Up Africa.
He spoke about the many interventions by government through the Malaria Control Program, citing the recent distribution of 4.6million insecticide treated bed nets to people in communities across the country to reduce the spread of the virus.
He noted that with the support from partners like Speak up Africa and Global Fund, they are hopeful of a sharp decrease in the incidences and malaria related deaths in the country.
The deputy program manager disclose that a total of $15 million dollars comes into the country as a support to control malaria on a yearly basis but was quick to note that bulk of the funds goes to implementing partners to undertake various activities in the campaign.
He lamented the challenges posed by the COVD-19 pandemic to the government’s anti-malaria crusade and noted the slowing progress in the response efforts.
As part of the African Union campaign to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030, Sierra Leone have been providing free malaria treatments at all health centers nationwide and the provision of treated mosquito bed nets every three years to household.
Also speaking, Malaria Program Officer at Speak Up Africa, James Wallen, stated that they have been working on four main health components including vaccination immunization, sanitation, neglected tropical disease and malaria in the past 10 years.
He informed the gathering that the “Malaria Start With Me” campaign was launched in Senegal in 2013 as a national campaign with focus on driving the Political will, private sector engagement and community involvement in eliminating the virus.
He said the campaign was embraced internationally by the African Union based on the success made in Senegal, and disclosed that 15 member countries are so far implementing the campaign in their national program.
According to him, since February 2019 when Sierra Leone launched “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign into it national activities, lots has happened including tour to selected districts with messages on the campaign, involvement of key players including government officials, musicians and community leaders, among others.
National Coordinator of Health Reporters Network Sierra Leone, Swaliho Vandi, thanked government and partners including Speak Up Africa for partnering with them in ensuring that reporters are empowered to report professionally and effectively on malaria.
He said bringing journalists that have been reporting on event base stories into a specialized health reporting was challenging but noted that with commitments among members, they were able to establish the network which according to him resulted in reaching out to Speak Up Africa for support.
He urged government and colleague journalists to treats malaria seriously by engaging communities in order to bring out the correct pictures of health situations so as to allow government respond to the health needs of the people adequately.