By Hassan Zaggi
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, has disclosed that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi were able to deliver more than 1.7 million doses of the pilot implementation of the RTSS malaria vaccine in 18 months.
She disclosed this in a message to mark the 2021 World Malaria Day.
This, she noted, reached about the same levels of population coverage as other vaccines, stressing that: “This is a promising additional tool in malaria prevention.”
This is even as Malaria-related absenteeism and productivity losses cost Nigeria an estimated US$ 1.1 billion every year.
As WHO, she noted, “we are working with countries to look strategically at the stagnated progress in the past five years. We are asking stakeholders in each endemic country to come together and answer the questions: ‘what is working? what is not working? and what can be done differently to attain the 2030 targets?’
“Together, we need to move from the perception of malaria as a health problem, to understanding this disease as a threat to socio-economic development that requires a multisectoral response.
“With an all-of-society response to draw the line against malaria, together, we can ensure African societies, economies and individuals, prosper.”
On the progress made in the fight against malaria over the years, Dr. Moeti said: “Between 2000 and 2019, malaria incidence declined by 29% and deaths by 60%.
“More than 1.2 billion cases and 7.1 million deaths were averted in the Region. Cabo Verde has maintained zero malaria status since 2018, Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019, and Botswana, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Namibia and South Africa achieved the 2020 milestones of reducing malaria incidence and deaths by 40% compared to 2015.
She further noted that: “However, 36 of the 44 malaria-endemic countries in the Region did not achieve these milestones.
“Overall, the Region was off track by 37% and 25% for the incidence and deaths milestones respectively. While malaria incidence in the Region dropped by 9% to 10% every five years between 2000 and 2015, in the last five years, this has slowed to less than 2%.
“Every year that we let malaria spread, health and development suffers. Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1.3% in Africa’s economic growth.
“In 2003, malaria cost Uganda an estimated gross domestic product equivalent to US$ 11 million. In Kenya, approximately 170 million working days and 11% of primary school days are lost to malaria each year.”