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Malaria accounts for 25% deaths in Gambia – official

Apr 22, 2016, 10:58 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

In The Gambia, malaria is the probable cause of 4 per cent of infant deaths and 25 per cent of deaths in children 1 to 4 years, said the director of planning at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

Dawda Ceesay said although the economic burden of malaria has not been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss days of productivity among the adult population.

The disease leads to absenteeism from school and work, and increased household expenditure on health.

“Malaria is therefore not only a health problem but also a developmental one,” he said while delivering a speech at a press briefing held at the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in Kanifing on the forthcoming World Malaria Day (WMD).

WMD is globally commemorated on 25 April and theme for this year is ‘End Malaria for Good’.

According to statistics, malaria kills an African child every 45 seconds and the commonest malaria complications in children include cerebral malaria, severe anamia, respiratory distress and hypoglycemia.

Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage, according to research findings.

Mr Ceesay said pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

“When a woman is pregnant, her immunity is reduced, making her more vulnerable to malaria infection with dangerous consequences such as abortion, still birth, premature delivery and low birth weight,” he explained.

Statistics has it that at least 24 million pregnancies are threatened each year in Africa and malaria causes up to 15 per cent maternal anemia.It also accounts for about 35 per cent of preventable low birth weight which is also a major cause of problems in subsequent child development.

Mr Ceesay pointed out that the Ministry of Health through NMCP continues to scale up key malaria interventions across the whole country with support from the Global Fund and other partners. He said the ministry’s interventions include free distribution of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets to meet universal coverage targets, free access to reproductive and child health services including prompt and effective treatment for malaria.

The interventions also include free intermittent preventive treatment services for pregnant women, indoor residual spraying across the country and widespread community education for behavioural change.

However, Mr Ceesay noted that the task ahead for malaria control is colossal but it has to be tackled head-on.

“The Gambian population cannot afford to be victim of malaria year in year out,” he said.“Malaria prevention and control is the business of everyone; therefore, we all need to mobilise all available means to control it.”