Uganda still needs to fight malaria

Carlos Odora | 01 Aug 2007
New Vision
MALARIA kills between 320-350 Ugandans daily. If these mortalities were accident induced, we would see tremendous national concern to halt them. Our best shot at the target is operating 300 pharmacies, 5,000 drug stores and the many private clinics, which according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, dispense up to 60% of the anti-malarials through the private sector.

Of the most efficacious drugs for the treatment of malaria, artemesinin combination therapies (ACTS) are the drugs of choice. In April 2006, the Government launched the treatment as first line due to the proven knowledge that combination therapies warded off the plasmodium parasite.

Despite the knowledge about the efficacy of ACTS and Government policy on their use, the drugs are no where to be seen and if they are seen, they are too expensive for the majority of the people.

Efforts by the international community to avail the drugs are yet to be seen as there are challenges right from corruption, the management of the supply chain up to the stocking of the drugs where the poor can access them.

Recently, I visited a number of pharmacies and drug stores which dispense anti-malarials and found chloroquine, sulphadoxine pyrimethamine and quinine as the most common in all because they are cheap. This does not augur well for the poor because malaria parasites have become resistant to these drugs.

How can Uganda fulfil its promise to its people to halve down the number of malaria death and cases by 2015 according to the Abuja Declaration?

Where as it is important to promptly treat every malaria case, it is more important to prevent people from getting malaria in the first place.

In September 2006, the WHO announced the re-introduction of DDT for indoor residual spraying. In the same year, the country benefited from the President Bush?s Malaria Initiative Fund, which provided funds for indoor residual spraying (IRS) in Kabale. The programme has brought malaria level down from 30% to 3% according to Dr. John B. Rwakimari, the head of the National Malaria control Programme.

Increasing IRS as the Government wants to do is a key component in fighting malaria because nets alone cannot stem the rising tide of malaria.

The writer is a fellow of Africa fighting malaria for East Africa based in Kampala