For the first time in five years, the Ministry of Health and partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Aid for International Development (USAID), and the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) have embarked on a little over two-month nationwide National Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS).
The survey is expected to be conducted in all 15 counties at designated communities that fall within a given cluster.
The NMIS, according to Mr. Oliver Pratt, Program Manager, National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), is intended to measure the level of progress the Liberian government is making in the fighting against malaria, a disease that is a leading cause of sickness and death in the country.
Mr. Pratt said the survey is done every two years; that the last one was conducted in 2011.
“We couldn’t conduct another one in 2014 because of the deadly Ebola outbreak. There is no better time than now to carry out the survey,” he stated.
Officially launching the survey at a hotel in Monrovia on Friday, September 16, Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said the day was a historic one as the nation was about to set another baseline for malaria indicator in the country.
Deputy Min. Nyenswah disclosed that Liberia had made significant progress in the fight against malaria, and all of those successes couldn’t have been made possible without the backings of the Ministry’s health stakeholders, especially the WHO, USAID, LISGIS, etc.
He used the occasion to call on residents of the homes that will be visited by the survey team from the MOH and LISGIS to give them all the right pieces of information that would be requested of them; adding: “This is meant to hear from you, whether you get net(s), how your children are doing including whether they have malaria or not. It will also tell us the number of households that own and sleep under mosquito nets and the number of pregnant women who get protected from malaria during clinic attendance.”
Speaking earlier, Dr. Catherine Cooper, who proxy for Dr. Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister for Health Services and Chief Medical Officer, Liberia, said funding for the country’s previous three malaria indicator surveys was provided by USAID, which along with others, has also provided resources for this survey.
The first survey was conducted in 2005 and its result showed that the malaria parasite prevalence rate in children was 66 percent; the second was carried out in 2009 with more than 4,000 homes targeted and the rate showed 32 percent, a significant drop of 34 percent.
In the last survey, according to Dr. Cooper, the malaria parasite prevalence rate in children further dropped to 28 percent, indicating that the rate of infection was drastically reducing in Liberia.
“Another survey was planned for 2014, but Ebola stopped us as our health sector got badly hit. This survey will be the fourth. It will tell us whether we have made any progress,” she said.
Dr. Alex Gasasira, WHO Representative to Liberia, praised the fine record of Liberia’s fight against malaria. He used the occasion to urge the field workers to do all to collect the right and vital pieces of information that would be useful to the statisticians.
Also making remarks, Dr. Anthony Chan, USAID’s Mission Director, said as important as conducting the survey is after a five-year delay, “the fact is that it will provide useful information on how the Ebola crisis affected access to and utilization of health care services, including antimalarial care.”
According to the USAID MD, the vital pieces of information that would be gathered from the field will help Liberia better design responses to future healthcare shocks like Ebola.
He told the survey team, who were dressed in orange and green t-shirts with caps to match, that the work they were about to embark on is important as it speaks to the critical need for an evidence-based approach to the delivery of healthcare services in Liberia.
“There is no dispute about the importance of an evidence-based health care delivery system — a system that employs the deliberate and purposeful use of the best and most current evidence to formulate decisions about the delivery of health care services,” Dr. Chan added.
“I want to thank the surveyors in advance for the work they will be doing. They will travel across Liberia in the rainy season and under blazing sun. They will cross rivers and streams in canoes and often on rickety foot bridges. They will walk for hours to reach remote villages and communities.
“I urge the surveyors to take solace in the fact that at the end of the day, their work is part of a broader effort to help build a Liberian healthcare delivery system that provides all Liberians access to quality health care.”
Also speaking, a representative of Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Madam Lynne Y. George-Cassell, told Liberians: “During the next sixty-five plus days, people from the National Malaria Control Program of the Ministry of Health will be coming to your houses to interview you about and other conditions. The purpose for asking these questions is to find out if you have been receiving the malaria services and to understand your impression of the malaria program in Liberia and also if you have a child who is below the age of five years. We want to urge you to kindly allow the health practitioners from NMCP test your child for malaria and anemia (low blood). Your child will also be treated or referred if positive depending on the child’s condition. All testing and treatments are free.”
The NMIS, which will begin today, September 20, will be conducted by two teams, including 24 interviewers and 24 biomarkers. The teams will have seven coordinators and 12 supervisors.
The teams will test children for malaria and anemia and interviewers will speak with women of childbearing ages 14 to 49 years, while the team’s biomarkers will be testing children born after 2013, ones who are more than six months old or children under five years.
Any child or children who are tested positive for malaria will be provided treatment.