Lessons from other nations in malaria fight

Carlos Odora | 31 Jan 2008
New Vision
Uganda is stepping up its efforts in the long fight to control malaria and reduce the burden of the disease. The Spraying of DDT to homesteads will soon be extended to new districts. Owing to the application of insecticides on the inside walls of houses, mosquitoes that spread the deadly plasmodium parasite will be repelled from entering houses.

In September 2006, the World Health Organisation's Global Malaria Programme director, Dr Arata Kochi, said: "Help save African children as we save our environment".

This was after assessing the effects of DDT. Today, many African countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Uganda have agreed to the use of this chemical to combat malaria. The spraying of DDT will minimise the chances of the mosquito-causing parasites from spreading the disease.

This implies that the number of people who fall sick would decrease, few people would seek treatment in health facilities and the long queues would dwindle, thus enabling more to access better health services since few people will be attended to.

Hospitals will, therefore, have more stock of anti-malarial drugs and would not have to spend $658.2m on the treatment of malaria.

However, success in the fight against malaria, through the use of DDT, will come with a price. Lower exposure to Plasmodium falciparum (species that cause malaria) during early childhood will reduce immunity and encourage complacency, making future generations more susceptible to malaria Zanzibar has been relatively successful in the fight against malaria. This has been possible because of improved treatment, high level indoor house spraying and the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, which are funded by donors. Uganda is not any different when it comes to funding its malaria programmes since we also rely on donors.

The danger of totally relying on donors for funding health programmes such as malaria is that the donors develop the 'aid fatigue syndrome' which could lead to such programmes being abandoned. This was the case in Zanzibar, which came close to eliminating malaria but because she did not have internal resources, malaria cases kept reoccuring. What are some of the lessons Uganda can learn from Zanzibar and other countries that have succeeded in eradicating malaria as we prepare to keep malaria at bay?

In the past, many high and middle-income countries used indoor-spraying along with effective anti-malarial drugs to control the disease. Sustainable long-term solutions can be achieved though economic development. Western Europe and the US eradicated malaria by increasing wealth, enabling people set up screens on their windows and air conditioners in their homes.

The United Arab Emirates, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is the latest country to successfully eradicate malaria. We must not lose sight of the long-term goal, which is economic development.Without it, Africa will always depend on donors to control malaria