Malaria Stagnates MDGs Realization

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Tolbert Nyenswah.jpg

The deadly illness malaria is serving as one of the major impediments to the realization of the global agenda enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Assistant Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Tolbert Nyenswah, has observed.

Mr. Nyenswah said malaria, which claims millions of lives every year— especially in Africa—, has a severe socio-economic impact on the population of developing countries.

“It is one of the major causes of household poverty as it results in absenteeism from daily activities of productive living and income generation,” he added.

Malaria is a leading cause of illness and death in Liberia, especially among infants. It claims the lives of around 21,300 children under-five years old annually.

Minister Nyenswah, who is also Liberia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, made these comments at the official program marking the 7th commemoration of World Malaria Day.

He did so on Friday April 25, when he spoke on behalf of Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale. The occasion was organized by the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoSHW).

The occasion was held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Sports Stadium in Paynesville outside Monrovia. It was held under the global theme: “Invest in the Future, Defeat Malaria.” And under the national theme: “Take Cover to Prevent Malaria, Everywhere, Every night, and Sleep under the Net.”

Minister Nyenswah noted that malaria also continues to prevent many school children from attending school due to illness. This diminishes their capacities to realize their full potential, thereby putting the MDGs under a dark cloud.

At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration. It committed their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and set out a series of time-bound targets, with 2015 as a deadline. This was intended to make the world a better place for its inhabitants.

MDGs are time-bound and quantified targets set by the United Nations for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions—income, poverty, hunger, disease, the lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion—while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. But it is becoming very clear that these dreams will not be realized.

They (MDGs) are also basic human rights—the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security, but malaria, which is the biggest killer of the human population, most especially in Africa, is making these dreams illusive as it continues its rampage through every target of the MDGs, especially goal one, two, four, five, and six.

Minister Nyenswah indicated that the unlikelihood of MDGs coming through as scheduled is due to the inability of global leaders in the health sector to adequately tackle some major issues that are serving as impediments to the achievement of this global agenda.

He said paramount amongst these deadly scourges are malaria; a sickness that continues to mercilessly kill people—especially children under five—and continues to promise the world a bleak future, due to the death toll of leaders of future generation.

“This plague has and continues to drain households, especially those in developing countries, thereby keeping them in abject and perpetual poverty.”

Reading a message on behalf of WHO Regional Director for Africa, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Liberia, Dr. Nestor Ndyayimirije, The Assistant Minister said the African continent continues to bear the brunt of the global burden of malaria.

Providing a statistical analysis, Dr. Ndyayimirije pointed out that in 2012, 80 percent of the estimated 207 million malaria cases worldwide were in Africa. In the same year, 90 percent of the estimated 627,000 global malaria deaths occurred in Africa.

There has been some progress in the prevention and control of malaria on the continent, since the adoption of the MDGs in 2000. Between 2000 and 2012, malaria mortality rates among children under-five declined by 54 percent. During the same period, malaria death rates decreased by 49 percent in the population and 54 percent among under-five.

Dr. Ndyayimirije said with these gains, much more needs to be done to sustain the gains and accelerate progress toward achieving national and regional malaria targets.

He noted that WHO will continue to work with member states and partners to mainstream malaria control in health and development policies and plans, carry out advocacy for increased mobilization of domestic and external funding, and provide guidance regarding appropriate malaria control policies and interventions.

The Malaria Day celebration started with a parade from the ELWA Junction to the SKD stadium. The Eddie Theatre provided some side attractions at the event with cultural performances and traditional songs.

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