S/Leone Celebrates World Malaria Day
Health and Sanitation Minister, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie
Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, alongside it allies in the fight against Malaria joined other countries around the world to celebrate this year’s World Malaria Day on May 25, 2020.
The day recognized the important progress that has been made against this deadly disease as well as a moment to recommit to the targets and ultimate goal of malaria elimination by 2030.
In Sierra Leone, from 2010-2018, confirmed malaria deaths reduced from 8188 to 1949 (77%). We cannot let this incredible progress be undermined by the coronavirus and we must maintain and accelerate progress towards malaria elimination with more determination than ever. Indeed, the COVID19 pandemic reveals even more clearly the need to invest in strengthening our health systems to allow us both to fight new health threats as well as continue to make progress against far older diseases such as malaria.
While the scale of the national World Malaria Day event has rightly been reduced in line with current restrictions, the energy and passion for elimination of malaria is still alive and well in Sierra Leone. Instead of the high-level event in Freetown, celebrations were primarily through the media, such as television and radio panel discussions as well as a national broadcast by the Minister of Health and Sanitation Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie and Dr. Evans Majani Liyosi, the World Health Organization Country Representative.
Exactly 1 year ago, Dr. Alpha T. Wurie announced the launch of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign in Sierra Leone. This campaign – also known as Malaria E Don Wan Dae Na Mi Han in Krio – is a pan-African movement for the elimination of malaria and has been endorsed by all 55 Heads of State of the African Union. The movement aims to spark an unprecedented boost to the human and financial resources necessary to reach this ambitious goal. It promotes the idea that every single person in society has an important role to play in the fight against one of the world’s oldest diseases.
Sierra Leone, with a population of 7.5 million, is a high burden country in which the entire population is at risk of malaria, with pregnant women and children under-five years being the most vulnerable. In 2018, Sierra Leone confirmed 1.78 million cases and 1,949 deaths. It continues to cause suffering and dismantle families. It has an immense economic toll and is a major block to all forms of development.
To make further progress against this scourge, next month the National Malaria Control Program is initiating a mass bed net distribution campaign to ensure that everyone has access to this life-saving tool. We must all commit to using bed nets every night and all year round as well as ensuring that pregnant women and children access preventive medications and that diagnosis and treatment is sought immediately if a fever is suspected, especially for children under 5 who make up 70% of malaria deaths worldwide.
Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr O.B.E said: "I strongly encourage all members of society, including politicians, local councils, religious leaders, paramount chiefs, the private sector, civil society organisations and the population at large to take responsibility for the fight against malaria and join me in becoming an advocate and champion of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign and the goal of malaria elimination by 2030."
Also, Dr. Samuel Smith, Director of Disease Control and Prevention, stated: “World Malaria Day is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control. Indeed, properly investing in malaria interventions also increases the capacity of health care workers and helps to build more resilient health care systems as a whole, thereby helping in the fight against new diseases such as COVID19. Since around 25% of medical visits at any one time are due to malaria, investments to move towards malaria elimination will radically reduce the pressure on an already strained health system.”