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Gambia nears malaria elimination

Jul 6, 2017, 12:06 PM

Through international investment and a strong Gambian-led campaign, the country has seen a significant drop in the prevalence of malaria and of new infections of the disease, a media release by a consortium of international NGOs has indicated.

With a prevalence of only 0.2 per cent, The Gambia can now see a clear path to ‘no new cases’ of malaria by the year 2020, said the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US Embassy in Banjul.

“We are proud that The Gambia has made major strides in its fight against malaria,” said Ms Saffie Lowe Ceesay, the Gambia’s health minister. “With the ongoing support of the international community, elimination of the disease is now within sight – a first for a sub-Saharan African country.”

 According to statistics, Gambia’s landmark achievements in malaria control and prevention include: malaria parasitic prevalence decreased by 95 per cent, from 4 per cent in 2010 to 0.2 per cent in 2014, and malaria infections fell by 50 per cent across all regions between 2011 and 2016.

 With support from The Global Fund, the Gambian government and CRS have been working together to eliminate malaria for more than a decade.

Reaching nearly 2 million people in the last year alone, the work has included a broad range of prevention and control methods such as ensuring access and proper use of bed-nets; spraying walls with insecticides; and ensuring rapid diagnosis, followed by proper treatment.

In 2014, CRS began using seasonal malarial chemoprevention to help prevent malaria in children under the age of 5.

 “Now is not the time to stop or even slow our work,” said Annemarie Reilly, CRS’ chief of staff and executive vice president of strategy and organizational development. “We know that the last mile will be the hardest, and that the disease can come back. But, with international support, we can make history.”

 In 2015, there were approximately 212 million cases of malaria worldwide.  Nearly half a million people died, most of them children.

 In The Gambia, all of the major stakeholders say that more international investment is needed to be able to fully eradicate the disease.

 “By wiping out malaria we can raise up an entire community — a country even,” said Mr Abdoulie Mam Njie, executive secretary of the country coordinating mechanism of The Global Fund.

“We are interested in not only sustaining the gains we’ve made so far, but in securing additional resources to win the battle against this deadly disease.”

 Ms. C. Patricia Alsup, the US Ambassador to The Gambia, added: “We know elimination is possible, but more resources are needed to achieve this milestone. We need continued bilateral support from partners, donors and the government alike.”