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Three in 10 Sierra Leoneans infected with Malaria – report

  • Dr Abubakarr Fofana, health minister

By Kemo Cham
Despite progress in reduction of transmission and deaths due to Malaria, Sierra Leone remains one of the worst affected by the disease, the latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.
WHO’s World Malaria Report 2016, released on Tuesday December 13, reveals that nearly 3 in 10 Sierra Leoneans were infected by the parasitic disease, making the country one of the world’s highest burdens of malaria cases.
The annual report, published every December, details a comprehensive overview of progress in the fight against malaria.
This year’s edition reveals that despite progress globally in terms of cutting down transmission and deaths, the disease remains a serious public health threat, and it calls for increase in funding to tackle its spread.
Sub Saharan Africa [SSA] still carries the highest burden of the disease both in terms of cases and deaths, the report finds.
Sierra Leone is characterized as one of just seven countries in the sub region where more than a quarter of the population is infected with malaria. The disease contributes to almost 40 percent of deaths of children under five years of age and is the cause of nearly four in ten hospital consultations country-wide, according to the report.
On a positive note, Sierra Leone made significant progress in malaria control, registering over 86 percent decline in deaths due to malaria between 2010 and 2015, the report finds. This is said to be the highest reduction in the whole of the West Africa region. The country also recorded about 30 percent reduction in new cases.
Anders Nordström, WHO Country Representative, while praising the “substantive progress”, warned that much more needed to be done to prevent new cases and save lives.
“From government to communities and partners, everyone has a role to play in reducing risks of transmission and securing timely, life-saving treatment for all,” he said in a statement issued by the WHO Country office to coincide with the release of the report.
WHO is a major partner of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
Together with other partners, the ministry has over the years rolled out several interventions aimed at reducing transmission, notably mass distribution of insecticide treated bed nets, which are considered by the world health body as among the most effective and proven means of preventing malaria.
The ministry also engaged in nationwide anti-malaria campaigns and introduced free diagnostic tests and treatments at more health centers across the country.
Nordström said these interventions should be accelerated “to ‘tap’ malaria.”
“This means making sure people use treated nets every night; keep their environment clean from mosquitos, and seek early treatment and care as soon as they have any symptoms of the disease, which include fever, headache, chills and loss of appetite.”
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. The female anopheline mosquito is known to be the most predominant vector of the disease.
Without prompt treatment, malaria rapidly progresses to severe illness and death.
Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk, especially so in sub-Saharan Africa which bears the brunt of the disease globally.
According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429 000 deaths worldwide in 2015. SSA recorded 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. Children under five accounted for an estimated 70% of all the deaths, the report notes.
WHO warns that funding shortfalls and fragile health systems were undermining overall progress seen from increase in rapid testing and availability of bed nets, thereby jeopardizing the attainment of global targets of ending the disease’s transmission.

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