‘Malaria remains a major public health problem’ - says Deputy Health Minister 1 By Ibrahim Tarawalli

Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation 1 has stated that malaria still remained a major public health problem in Africa and Sierra Leone in particular, thus constituting a major barrier to social and economic development.

Sierra Leone will once again witness a mass distribution of insecticide treated bed nets and house-to-house family sensitization on COVID-19 prevention from 22nd to 31st May this year. A total of 4.6million treated bed nets would be distributed across the country to control the spread of the disease.

Dr Anthony Augustine Sandy told a presser that theentire population in the country was at risk of contracting malaria but stressed that children and pregnant women are susceptible and more vulnerable to the disease.

“This preventable and treatable disease continues to kill one child every 2 minutes for lack of a simple, cost-effective tool like an insecticide treated bed net or a sample course of effective treatment,” he said.

According to him, malaria remained one of the prime causes of deaths among children and the biggest cause for medical consultations and hospitalization.

He called for a sober reflection and underscored the need to use the opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to examine the need to redouble effort at all levels.

The deputy health minister noted that the mass distribution of the treated bed nets is one of the strategies identified in the President’s priorities for health and part of the ministry’s performance tracking tools.

“Malaria is responsible for 47 percent of the out-patients visits by children under five years to health facilities. It also accounts for 38 percent of the out-patient visit for all ages to health facilities, 36.7 percent of all hospitalization, 35.3 percent of death in children under five year and 20.5 percent of death attributed to malaria for all ages,” he disclosed.

He maintained that over the past two decades, the National Malaria Control Programme in collaboration with partners have done substantial work to dramatically prevent and control the disease.

“We cannot let this incredible progress be undermined by the corona virus pandemic and must maintain and accelerate progress towards malaria elimination with more determination than everbefore,” he urged.

Director for Disease, Prevention and Control, Dr Samuel Juana Smith stated that the first phase of the distribution will cover 14 districts. He said Western Area Urban and Rural have been excluded from the first phase because of the high number of COVID-19 cases in the densely populated areas.

Also speaking, Deputy Representative of the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Rushnan Murtaza said: “This distribution of mosquito nets will no doubt contribute towards the reduction of the malaria disease which happens to be the biggest killer disease among pregnant women and children under the age of five. I would like to congratulate the government for the positive efforts to reduce deaths and illness due to malaria in the country.”

She stated that from 2010 to 2018, the number of deaths has more than halved with the number of malaria cases dropped by 20%, indicating that with the right interventions and multi-sectoral commitments, further progress is possible.

She added that the reality and burden of malaria becomes very apparent at the children’s wards of hospitals across the country, where the nurses and doctors fight hard daily to save the lives of children who have the disease

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