At least 54 deaths from malaria have been recorded between January and March this year as the country battles with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), 16 of the deaths occurred among children under five years,as one million people have tested positive for malaria in the period.
Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye in a statement issued over the weekend to commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day (WMD) indicated that of the number of positive malaria cases, 21,201 were children under five years and 28,764 were pregnant women.
The situation he feared could derail progress made in the fight against the killer disease if collaborative efforts were not sustained to prevent, detect and treat malaria.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible to lose sight of the deadly malaria disease and the gains made over the years both individually and collectively to protect ourselves and risk reversing hard-won progress in the malaria fight.”
To this end, the Director-General has advised the public to take charge of their health and that of their families as they continued practicing precautionary measures outlined against contracting COVID-19.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we actualise the theme for this year’s WMD; “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” and take action to ensure that we are protected from malaria and COVID-19.
“Just as we ought to wear masks, sanitise our hands, practice social distancing and wash our hands with soap under running water, so must we take charge of our own health and that of our families.”
Dr Kuma-Aboagye advised the people to sleep under insecticide treated nets and test to confirm malaria before taking any Artemether-lumefantrine (ACT).
Pregnant women, he admonished, are to take all recommended doses of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) to keep themselves and their unborn babies safe from malaria. He asked as all persons comply with prescribed malaria treatment to reduce the disease burden in the country.
Relatedly, the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has used the occasion of the WMD to rally all stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to the fight to ending malaria as efforts to combat COVID-19 continues to strain the country’s health budget and systems.
“COVID-19 has shown us that diseases do not respect borders and persons and by working together, we can end malaria and overcome new threats to global public health.”
Mrs Akufo-Addo recognised that though efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 were necessary to protect health systems and the population at large, “these efforts must not compromise access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services or threaten to reverse decades of hard-fought progress against malaria.”
She called on the development partners and corporate entities to invest in malaria control and prevention interventions in these times to prioritise support for high risk persons susceptible to the deadly disease.
“Zero malaria is achievable when we all show commitment and collaborate better. We won’t achieve this overnight but we will certainly get there if we all work together,” she urged.
This year’s WMD envisages driving actions and causing change starting with each and every one to reduce the global malaria burden.
The day is marked every April 25 to recognise global efforts to control the parasitic disease where about 3.3 people in 106 countries are at risk of getting malaria.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH