By Sarjo Camara-Singateh
‘In the Gambia, malaria is the probable cause of 4% of infant deaths and 25% of deaths in children 1 to 4 years,” revealed Mr. Dawda Ceesay, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
He made this remarks at a press briefing ahead of the 2016 World Malaria Day on 25 April to be commemorated in Farafenni, North Bank Region (NBR).
Mr. Ceesay said although the economic burden of malaria has not yet been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss days of productivity among the adult population, absteeism from schools and work places and increased household expenditure on health.
“Malaria is therefore not only a health problem but also a developmental one,” said the Director of Planning.
He said the commonest and most important complications of the infections in children are celebral malaria, severe anaemia, respiratory distress and hypoglycaemia, adding that many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage.
Mr. Ceesay also noted that pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to malaria. “When women are pregnant, their 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 noted.
He revealed that at least 24 million pregnancies are threatened each year in Africa and that malaria causes up to 15% of maternal anaemia and about 35% of preventable low birth weight, adding that low birth weight is also a major cause of problems in subsequent child development.
Mr. Bala Kandeh, the Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), said this year the anti-malaria community will report on the progress made globally to save a million lives through the delivery of malaria interventions such as- LLINs, diagnostic tests (RDTs), anti-malarial drugs and indoor residual spraying.
“This gathering today clearly demonstrates the level of partnership established over the years by the Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control programme,” said Mr. Kandeh.
The NMCP Manager noted that the role back malaria (RBM) builds partnership to mobilise global support and resources to reduce the malaria burden.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, Dr. Charles Sagoe Mosses, said World Malaria Day (WMD) offers an annual opportunity to highlight advances in malaria control and to commit to continued investment and action to accelerate progress against the deadly disease.
Dr. Sagoe Mosses said each year the WHO and partners unite around a common WMD theme and this year’s is “End Malaria For Good”. This, he said, reflects the vision of a malaria free world set out in the ‘Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016 -2030’which was adopted in May 2015 by the World Health Assembly. He added that the strategy aims to drastically lower the global malaria burden over the next 15 years. “Its goals are ambitious but attainable,” said the WHO Rep.
The briefing was fused with a symposium where a team of scientists from Medical Research Council (MRC), Malaria Team made presentations. It was attended by a health experts, malaria consortiums and journalists.