Malaria still a major public health problem


Guyana has joined with other countries in reflecting on the effort the country has made to sustain effective control of the malaria, as the world over observes World Malaria Day today (April 25, 2016) under the theme “End Malaria For Good”.

Dr. George Norton- Min. of Public Health
Dr. George Norton- Min. of Public Health

According to Minister of Health Dr. George Norton, “Malaria is still a major public health problem in Guyana, notably in Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9. We have recorded an average of about 84,000 cases annually. The rates continued to increase in the early 1990’s until over the last 10 years, when we note significant decreases to average of less than 30,000 cases and as low as 12,000 in 2009”.

It was noted that the Ministry of Health, Vector Control Services, with support from International Agenices such as the Pan American Health Organisation and Global Fund has been monitoring the mining population and interior locations where Malaria is mostly prevalent. However, the Ministry recognises that “there is still much work to be done and that there is no room for complacency”.

Based on information from the entity, it has “continuously expanded, tried and tested activities such as the training of microscopists and other health care providers for deployment into the mining and other interior locations as well introduced new initiatives such as the mass distribution of insecticide treated bed nets and the introduction of Coartem – the new and effective anti-malaria medication recommended by the WHO”. However, it has noted the emerging resistance of the parasite to the most effective new anti-malaria medication.

In the fight against the disease, some 37, 000 insecticide treated bed nets were donated to various agencies earlier this year. Amerindian villages, mining communities, the Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) were among some of the agencies to benefit.

While highlighting, that apart from the Community Health Workers and Medex, there are over 200 microscopists who have been permanently assigned to Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and parts of 10 – popularly known as the ‘malarious’ Regions in Guyana. The ministry noted that “they have been actively involved on a daily basis in taking the microscope into the mining areas, carrying out screening, treatment and distributing of bed nets in the remotest of villages and mining and logging camps in the interior regions”.

The Ministry has further underscored that Government will “continue to explore new initiatives to innovatively engage more and more partners in its efforts to combat malaria”.

WHO on Malaria

According to the World Health Organisation, Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. The first symptoms of malaria – fever, headache, chills and vomiting – usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. Without prompt treatment, it can progress to severe illness and death.

According to the a release from WHO, On World Malaria Day 2016 a new WHO report, “Eliminating Malaria”, highlights that 21 countries are in a position to achieve at least one year of zero indigenous cases of the disease by 2020. “WHO recommends a multi-pronged strategy to prevent, control and eliminate malaria. Key interventions include: the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying, diagnostic testing, and treatment of confirmed cases with effective anti-malarial medicines. In recent years, these measures have dramatically lowered the malaria burden in many settings. Malaria transmission continues in many countries around the world however, and causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year”.

It noted that in 2015, the entire WHO European Region reported, for the first time, zero indigenous cases of malaria. But reaching the next level—elimination—will not be easy. Nearly half of the world’s population, 3.2 billion people, remain at risk of malaria. Last year alone, 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries and more than 400 000 people died of malaria.

The Global Malaria Strategy 2016 – 2030 aims to, reducing the rate of new malaria cases by at least 90%, reducing malaria death rates by at least 90%, eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries and preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.