By Sarjo Camara Singateh
Dr. Samba Ceesay, the acting Director of Health Services, has launched the National Malaria Control Strategy called Seasonal Malaria Chemotherapy (SMC) at Bantanto in the Central River Region on 28th September 2014.
With funding and support from UNICEF and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), this campaign is targeting CRR and URR to reduce the impact of malaria which is key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially on MDGs 4, 5 and 6.
“As we launch the 2014 Seasonal Malaria Chemotherapy campaign, we must soberly reflect on the progress made and renew our collective efforts towards eventually eliminating malaria in the Gambia,” said the acting Health Services Director.
Dr. Ceesay said SMC is defined as the intermittent administration of full treatment courses of an anti malarial medicine during the malaria season to prevent malarial illness with the objective of maintaining therapeutic anti malarial drug concentration in the blood throughout the period of greatest malarial risk.
For his part, Mr. Balla Kandeh, the Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), said malaria remains a major public health problem with an estimated burden of 216 million clinical episodes and 655,000 deaths worldwide attributable to malaria in 2010. He said a significant proportion (91%) of reported deaths from malaria occurs in sub-saharan Africa, where children under 5 years of age bear most of the burden.
Mr. Kandeh said WHO recommends an additional intervention against plasmodium falciparum malaria, that is the seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). He said this intervention has been shown to be effective, cost effective, safe and feasible for preventing malaria among children under 5 years of age in the areas with highly seasonal malaria transmission.
Mr. Pa Ousman Manneh, the communication officer at the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) national office, said this year marks the 25th year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which is being commemorated globally by UNICEF throughout the year. Mr. Manneh said across the Sahel sub-region most childhood mortality and morbidity are caused by malaria. He said malaria occurs during the rainy season, which is generally short but giving effective anti malarial medication at full treatment doses at appropriate intervals during this period has been shown to prevent illness and deaths from malaria in children. He added that initiating and implementing such preventive lifesaving measures in these most vulnerable regions cannot come at a better time.
The Regional Director of Health Services in CRR, Mr. Jankoba Jabi, said in comparing 2011 and 2013 data in his region, they have realised a significant decrease in the number of malaria cases tested positive reduced from 16,762 to 12,702 in 2013. And similarly, he added, the number of deaths due to malaria has also dropped.
The representative of CRS, Mr. Ebriama Jarjue, said several strategies are needed to combat malaria and that seasonal malaria chemotherapy is one of them.
The Alkali of Bantanto, Mr. Tumani Fatty, welcomed the guests, while the village Imam led the closing prayers.