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Malaria still a major issue

Apr 27, 2015, 9:33 AM

World Malaria Day was Saturday celebrated around the world, including in The Gambia, to highlight the advances that have already been made in malaria prevention and control, and to commit to continued investment and action to accelerate progress against this deadly disease.

The theme, set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, is: Invest in the future: Defeat malaria.

This reflects the ambitious goals and targets set out in a draft post-2015 strategy to be presented to the World Health Assembly in May, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The new strategy aims to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 90% by 2030 from current levels,” it said.

“Four countries have been certified free of malaria in the last decade, and the post-2015 strategy sets the goal of eliminating the disease from a further 35 countries by 2030.”

While huge gains in the fight against malaria have been made in recent years – The Gambia being one of the countries that have registered such gains - WHO says the disease still has a devastating impact on people’s health and livelihoods around the world, particularly in Africa, where it kills almost half a million children under 5 each year.

A life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes, Malaria in 2013 caused an estimated 584 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 367 000 to 755 000), “mostly among African children”.

According to the latest estimates, released in December 2014, “there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 (with an uncertainty range of 124 million to 283 million) and an estimated 584 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 367 000 to 755 000).”

WHO says although malaria mortality rates have fallen by 47% globally since 2000 and by 54% in the WHO African Region, most deaths occur among children living in Africa “where a child dies every minute from malaria”.

According to WHO Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors”, which bite mainly between dusk and dawn.

It states: “There are four parasite species that cause malaria in humans: Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae, and Plasmodium ovale.

“Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common. Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly. In recent years, some human cases of malaria have also occurred with Plasmodium knowlesi – a species that causes malaria among monkeys and occurs in certain forested areas of South-East Asia.”

It is essential to note that malaria is transmitted “exclusively through the bites of Anopheles mosquitoes”, and the intensity of transmission depends on factors related to the parasite, the vector, the human host, and the environment.

These startling and guiding facts by the World Health Organisation should continue to urge us individually and as a nation to try hard to control malaria causes to prevent the disease in The Gambia. 

It is stated that vector control is the main way to reduce malaria transmission at the community level.

“It is the only intervention that can reduce malaria transmission from very high levels to close to zero,” WHO says. “For individuals, personal protection against mosquito bites represents the first line of defence for malaria prevention.”

Two forms of vector control have recommended as effective in a wide range of circumstances. These are Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and Indoor spraying with residual insecticides. Furthermore national cleansing to keep our environment clean and unpolluted with stinky water and other filth around us would do more good to eradicating malaria in our society.

In observance of World Malaria Day 2015, the WHO is calling for high-level commitment to the vision of a world free of malaria.

“Effective tools to prevent and treat malaria already exist, but more funds are urgently required to make them available to the people who need them and to combat emerging drug and insecticide resistance,” according to the UN agency.

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