Apr 21, 2011, 1:56 PM
The disease is passed to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes, with most bites occurring between dusk and dawn. The symptoms include fever and headache which in severe cases can lead to coma and death. Malaria is both preventable and curable. Nevertheless, according to data from the World Health Organization, there were about 216 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2010, which resulted in an estimated 655,000 deaths.
Aside from the human tragedy, malaria can have a serious effect on the economic wellbeing of a country.
According to Dr Maaki Taal, current Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare: “Malaria remains a public health challenge in The Gambia where it is the probable cause of 4% of infant deaths and 25% of deaths in children between 1 to 4 years old…Although the economic burden of malaria has not been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss of productivity among the adult population, absenteeism from schools and workplaces and increased household expenditure on health”.
He said malaria is the leading cause of work and school absenteeism and low farming productivity in The Gambia. Malaria, therefore, is not just a disease commonly associated with poverty, but can also be a cause, and a major hindrance to economic development.
World Malaria Day will this year be commemorated in a joint effort between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the global framework to implement coordinated action against malaria.
It is hoped that by commemorating World Malaria Day, opportunities will be created for increased advocacy and support for malaria control and prevention. For The Gambia, the day will be used to spread information on intensified national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment.