Gambia celebrates progress towards malaria elimination

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Government of The Gambia in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Global Fund on Tuesday hosted an event at Gambia Coral Beach Hotel & Spa to celebrate the progress made towards eliminating malaria in The Gambia.

Through international investment and a strong Gambia-led campaign, there has been a significant drop in the prevalence of malaria and of new infections of the disease.

In her welcoming remarks on the occasion, CRS Chief of Staff, Strategy and Organizational Development, Annemarie Reilly, described malaria as a killer disease that is preventable.

She added that malaria has economic impacts as well as individual and societal effects at large, noting that all these are what The Gambia is putting in the past.

She pointed out that a story of how The Gambia has been committed to the fight against malaria has been written, adding that this has been possible from 2004 to 2014 with technical and financial support from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

 CRS and other partners, the Gambia’s National Malaria Control Program under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare saw the country’s malaria parasite prevalence decrease dramatically from 4.0% in 2011 to 0.2% in 2014, she added.

Malaria case incidence also fell by 50 per cent across all regions, she said, describing it as a truly remarkable.

WHO Country Representative, Professor Jean Marie Dangou, in his remarks, said the success achieved in malaria prevention and control in The Gambia has been enormous.

 He congratulated the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, The Gambia Government, the people of The Gambia as well as all partners for the hard work and great solidarity which led to the achievements.

According to him, WHO is proud of The Gambia and would continue providing the needed support to reach the malaria elimination target in the coming years.

Nicolas Cantau, Global Fund Regional Manager, for his part, said they have invested over US$150 million in supporting The Gambia, over half of which went to malaria.

 “We need more success stories like The Gambia,” he stated.

Saffie Lowe Ceesay, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, said The Gambia is poised to become the fourth country to eliminate malaria within its borders.

She said that more resources and collaboration was required to reach these monumental achievements, pointing out that malaria has historically being one of the leading causes of mortality among children under-5 in The Gambia.

“It is critical that we continue to pay more attention by bringing services closer to the communities, promote and mobilize communities to utilize the services and also adopt behaviors and practices that prevent infection such as consistent sleeping under insecticide treated nets,” she urged.

Despite the successes gained, the health minister said there are still challenges facing the Gambia’s ability to completely eliminate malaria.

For her part, the United States ambassador to The Gambia, Patricia Alsup, said the U.S. government was committed to supporting the ideals of the New Gambian administration.

 “We are convinced that in a country like The Gambia, with a government like President Barrow’s, and with the right tools and strategies, malaria can be eliminated,” she said.

Author: Cherno Omar Bobb