CONTAINING A MASS KILLER

War against malaria needs new tactics - WHO

Global malaria infection and death rates have remained virtually unchanged since 2015

In Summary

• Freeing world of malaria would be one of the greatest achievements in public health

• Kenya is yet to start trials while Malawi and Ghana rolled out the test in April, 2019

WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House, Nairobi
MAJOR CONCERN: WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House, Nairobi
Image: FILE

Health experts have called for new ways to prevent, treat and eradicate malaria.

The World Health Organisation says most of the methods used to tackle malaria today such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and rapid diagnostic tests were developed in the last century.

The call comes amid reports that four people died and more than 100 others were admitted after a malaria outbreak in Baringo county.

The patients from Tirioko ward in Tiaty east subcounty had complained of vomiting, headache and fever.

Malaria is still a major public health and socio-economic problem in Kenya with three quarters of the estimated population of more than 40 million at risk of the disease.

The country had about 7.96 million cases of malaria infection in 2017, according to the WHO.

It is the major cause of hospital attendance, contributing to an estimated 30 per cent of admissions in the lake region.

“Freeing the world of malaria would be one of the greatest achievements in public health,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.

According to WHO, 266,000 children in Africa die of malaria and in every two minutes an infant losses life to the disease.

“With new tools and approaches we can make this vision a reality,” Ghebreyesus said.

 
 

WHO has also called on governments to invest in universal coverage to improve access to services, and better surveillance to guide a more targeted malaria response.

According to WHO, access to health services in many countries remains a major challenge.

The global health agency notes that only one in five pregnant women living in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission in Africa is able to obtain the drugs she needs to protect herself from malaria.

Half the people at risk of malaria in Africa sleep under an insecticide-treated net and just three per cent are protected by indoor spraying with insecticides.

The agency says the global malaria infection and death rates have remained virtually unchanged since 2015.

“Business as usual is not only slowing progress, but it is sending us backwards,” Marcel Tanner says.

Tanner is the chair at WHO Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme).

Kenya was to launch the pilot test for a malaria vaccine on August 14 but the exercise was postponed by the Health Ministry.

In a communication, Head of Vaccines Collins Tabu said the launch collided with the health summit that had been scheduled for August 14 and 15.

The case study which was selected for three sub-Saharan countries: Kenya, Malawi and Ghana was aimed at vaccinating 360,000 children per year.

However, Kenya is yet to start the trials while Malawi and Ghana rolled out the test in April.

The malaria vaccine immunisation exercise which targets children aged six, seven, nine and 24 months was scheduled to take place in Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Kisii, Migori, Homabay, Siaya and Kisumu counties.

The vaccine is the first to show promise in reducing mortality and morbidity of malaria and will complement existing interventions.

Mosquirix, the brand name for the vaccine, triggers the immune system to defend itself against the first stages of the disease shortly after a malaria parasite enters the bloodstream through a mosquito bite.

The pilot is supposed to run from 2019 to 2021.