US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Sheila Paskman has lauded the Liberian government for steady progress made in reducing the malaria mortality rate.
In her statement issued on World Malaria Day in Monrovia yesterday, Ms. Paskman said, “Since 2009, Liberia has reduced all-cause mortality among children under five by 18 percent as a direct result of collective investment and action by the government, communities, and partners.”
She added that as the world commemorates World Malaria Day, the US Embassy also celebrates with Liberia for achieving this success.
The United States, being the leading donor in global health, is strongly committed to working with partners to intensify efforts to free people from the intolerable burden of malaria, said Paskman.
However, Ms. Paskman stressed the need for more efforts in combating the disease, noting, “More than 430,000 people still die each year from this preventable and treatable disease; ninety percent of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and the vast majority occurs in children under five.”
She indicated that “more than half of all school-age absences in Africa are due to malaria, and that the disease costs the continent billions of dollars each year in health costs and lost productivity.”
Ms. Paskman also acknowledged her government for its continued efforts in supporting the fight against malaria.
She said “The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) continues to be a key partner in the fight against the disease. PMI supports 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Liberia, and countries in the Greater Mekong sub-region.”
According to her, PMI uses a mix of tools including long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor insecticide spraying campaigns, artemisinin-based combination therapies, prevention treatment of malaria in pregnancy, and community education campaigns.
She said “In Liberia, PMI works in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the national malaria control program, and countless partners like Global Fund and the UN agencies to reach and then maintain universal coverage with long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets for all individuals living in malaria endemic areas. Treated mosquito nets are a highly effective means of preventing infection and reducing malaria transmission.”
The U.S. Charge d’Affaires noted that PMI is also helping train professional medical personnel and community health workers to care for people with malaria, and is helping governments take charge of malaria efforts in their own countries.
However, Ms. Paskman said there are still more to do in the fight, emphasizing better protection for expecting mothers and their newborns as one cardinal approach.
She added that malaria causes serious life-threatening risks for a woman and her baby during pregnancy, and some of the common problems include maternal anemia, miscarriage, prematurity, stillbirth and low birth-weight in newborns.
The U.S. Charge d’Affaires further warned:
“Safe and effective treatment to prevent malaria in pregnancy is available during antenatal care, and sleeping under a long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net is vital. Increasing access to health services, especially for the poor, is a sound and sustainable investment that can command great economic returns. Programs to train community health workers to provide treatment for malaria and other childhood illnesses have been successfully scaled up in a number of countries, improving access to care for those least able to seek out those services at health facilities. The health and future of ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ Liberians is at stake. Reducing and possibly eliminating the malaria burden will be critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and will help advance development efforts in Liberia by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, increasing gender parity and improving maternal and child health.
“I want to acknowledge my colleagues and counterparts in Liberia, who work tirelessly in communities every day from Monday to Saturday. You are making possible our dream of ending malaria. But we can’t do this alone. And donor resources are not sufficient to reach our targets. We need innovative approaches to financing and increased engagement with the private sector. I call on all partners, businesses and communities to join our efforts to end malaria in Liberia, and worldwide, once and for all.”
The observance of World Malaria Day, followed by the launch of the African Vaccination Week
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says about 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria. The statement followed the celebration of World Malaria Day and African Vaccination Week celebrated in Ganta yesterday by the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare and the Nimba County Health Team.
A dispatch from the director of WHO Global Malaria Program, read by WHO representative to Liberia Dr. Alex Gasasira, said last year 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries, with over 400, 000 reportedly dying from malaria.
He said since 2000, malaria mortality rate has declined by 60 percent globally and added that in the WHO African Region, malaria mortality rate fell by 66 percent among all age groups and 71 percent among children under five.
“The advances came through the use of core malaria control tools that have been widely deployed over the last decade; insecticide – treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing and artemisinin – based combination therapies,” he said.
He further noted that the efficacy of the tools that secured the gains against malaria in the early years of this century is now threatened.
“Mosquitoes’ resistance to insecticides used in nets and indoor residual spraying is growing and so too is parasite resistance of a component of one of the most powerful antimalarial medicines,” he explained.
This year’s World Malaria Day is held under the theme, “End Malaria for good and close the immunization gap, stay polio free,” with the slogan: “Pregnant women, go to the clinic for your malaria medicine; parents take your child five times to the clinic or hospital for vaccination before they reach the age of one.”
The commemoration started with a parade on the main street of Ganta, followed by an indoor program, where several children were vaccinated to mark the beginning of the African Vaccination Week.
Dr. Gasasira maintained that further progress against malaria will likely require new tools that do not exist today and the further refining of new technologies.
He said, “Last year, for the first time, the European Medicines Agencies issued a positive scientific opinion on a malaria vaccine.
“In January 2016, WHO recommended large – scale pilot projects of the vaccine in several African countries, which could pave the way for wider deployment in the years ahead.”
Regarding the African Vaccination Week, it was led and coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for Africa and implemented by countries in the region. The initiative provides a unique opportunity for countries and partners to strengthen national immunization programs through advocacy and partnership.
Keynote speaker, Rep. Larry P. Younquoi assured the Ministry of Health and its partners that he is going to lobby with colleagues in the 53rd National Legislature to increase the health budget to end the fight against malaria.
Rep. Younquoi’s remark came after Dr. Gasasira said the fight against malaria requires strong political commitment and funding.
“Vigorous leadership by the government of affected countries is key, and the government must strengthen surveillance of cases to identify gaps in coverage and be prepared to take action based on the information