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ALMA award: Good news from a distant land

Feb 9, 2015, 10:57 AM

The Gambia has again received another award of international repute. This time around it is on malaria control intervention, as the country is named as one of the recipients of the 2015 African Leaders Malaria Alliance award (ALMA) for excellence in implementation of vector control, at the recently concluded 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Gambia, as well as the other six countries that received such an award - Burundi, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Guinea , Chad, Guinea Bissau, and the Comoros Island, was awarded for maintaining 95% coverage or above of vector control, long lasting insecticide treated netsand or residual-spray.

Indeed this is good news from a distant land, for which the government needs a pat on the back

It is actually a success for us all as it has taken the country a notch higher in malaria control intervention scorecard around Africa and the world.

Success is about reaching new heights and achieving new goals, and once achieved, it brings with it new levels of confidence and assurance, which makes initiatives such as the regular monthly set settal or cleansing exercise worthwhile.

The in-door residual-spraying component of the vector control programme in The Gambia and the monthly environmental cleansing exercise (set settal), have both proven to be an effective vector strategy.

“In terms of the impact of our efforts in 2008, a total of 508,846 episodes of clinical malaria were reported compared to 273,507 in 2013, resulting to 38% reduction of malaria pre-cases within a 5-year period,” the statement announcing the ALMA award highlighted.

The effects and cost of malaria to African countries have just been too enormous.

A combination of factors is known to be responsible for this chronic and fatal ailment. This included a mosquito known as Anopheles gambiae complex, which is responsible for high transmission; a predominant parasite species known as Plasmodium falciparum, said to be the causer of severe malaria and death; local weather conditions that often allow transmission to occur year round, and scarce resources and socio-economic instability, which have hindered efficient malaria control activities.

Malaria, which is one of the most severe public health problems worldwide, is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected, according to the World Health Organisation.

Malaria also imposes substantial costs to both individuals and governments. Costs to individuals and their families include purchase of drugs for treating malaria at home; expenses for travel to, and treatment at, dispensaries and clinics; lost days of work; absence from school; expenses for preventive measures; expenses for burial in case of deaths.

Costs to governments include maintenance, supply and staffing of health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets; lost days of work with resulting loss of income; and lost opportunities for joint economic ventures and tourism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Direct costs (for example, illness, treatment, premature death) have been estimated to be at least US$12 billion per year. The cost in lost economic growth is many times more than that.”

These causative factors and economic and financial setbacks caused by malaria, make it imperative for African governments, especially, to fight tooth and nail to control malaria in their countries. Good that The Gambia is one of those countries that have done well in registering drastic malaria reduction in their nations.

This is why the AU commended the recipients for their significant contributions to the fight against malaria and promoting accountability and action in maternal and child health.

The AU statement accompanying the ALMA award said that as a result of “this significant scaling up of malaria control interventions an estimated 3.9 million child deaths have been averted in Africa since year 2000, which represents a 54% reduction in malaria mortality”.

“There are more people dying of malaria than any specific cancer.”

Bill Gates