An infectious disease expert, Prof. Olugbenga Mokuolu, says more than 1.5 billion malaria incidence has been prevented in Africa in the last 21 years.
Mokuolu, Malaria Projects Lead, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), said during a Twitter Space forum on Tuesday that the feat was achieved due to massive scale-up of malaria interventions.
The forum, which was to mark the World Malaria Day, was organised by MSH and Internews Health Journalism Network (HJN).
The World Malaria Day, celebrated annually on April 25, highlights the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control.
This year’s celebration has the theme: “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement”.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease spread to humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is mostly found in tropical countries.
According to the World Health Organisation, 247 million cases of malaria were reported in 2021, from which 619,000 people died; 96 per cent of the fatalities lived in Africa.
Mokuolu said that concerted efforts of global partners strengthening health systems to improve malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment yielded positive results as it averted 11.7 million deaths in Africa.
He noted that the interventions included insecticide-treated bed nets, rapid malaria diagnostic, access to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT), treatment of severe malaria and approval of RTS,S vaccine among others.
According to him, development plays a major role in reducing the burden of malaria, while urbanisation has contributed to the fight against it.
“Malaria-affected countries must prioritise primary health care interventions, to fight the disease and leverage donor-funded strategies with their own resources and local expertise, he said.
Mokuolu, former Malaria Technical Director, National Malaria Elimination Programme, Nigeria, said MSH was working with the Nigerian government at all levels to ensure people’s access to quality services to help them prevent and manage malaria.
He appealed to the media to enhance awareness and publicity about malaria and the recently approved RTS,S vaccine in their reportage.
According to him, improving awareness about the RTSS vaccine will eliminate the challenges of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation that trailed the Polio and COVID-19 vaccines.
Also, Mr Allan Were, Vector-borne Disease Lead, MSH, said climate change had increased the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria.
Were said that the global community must use all the tools at its disposal, while investing in novel approaches, to protect citizens in a changing world.
He said that MSH would continue to strengthen health systems to address key health challenges, achieve universal health coverage and ultimately improve population health.
Similarly, Gideon Sarkodie, News Editor, ADARS FM, Ghana, said that scientists and researchers should make data and information more accessible and also improve engagement with journalists.
Sarkodie said that doing this would enhance media reporting and give citizens actionable information to improve their health.
He said that the introduction of the RTS,S vaccine reduced malaria deaths by 53 per cent and hospitalisations for severe malaria in Ghana.
“We need to change the face of reporting to solutions,” Sarkodie said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that MSH is the lead implementing partner of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative for States (PMI-S) project, USAID Nigeria and PMI’s flagship project to reduce malaria mortality and morbidity in Nigeria.
The project supports the government through its agencies at the federal, state, local government area and community levels to improve quality and access to services for the prevention and management of malaria and its complications. (NAN)