Liberia Making Progress Towards Malaria Elimination

USAID Health Office Director, Jessica Healey, said the country has made significant progress in the previous five years in eradicating malaria.

Healey said malaria deaths have decreased by 67 percent, from 914 in 2007 to 300 in 2021, and the number of confirmed cases has reduced by 15 percent, from over a million to around 900,000.

"Since 2018 the U.S government has procured over 3.6 million bed nets to prevent malaria, 27 million worth of medicines to treat malaria and 2.8 million worth of drugs to prevent malaria infection in pregnant women," Healey said. 

According to the World Health Organization, malaria is the greatest cause of disease and death in Liberia, accounting for 46.9% of hospital outpatients in 2020. The condition is especially likely to affect children and  pregnant women.

Ms. Harley, who spoke at the Paynesville City Hall on World Malaria Day, noted that despite advances, malaria remains Liberia’s most serious  public health problem and the leading cause of child fatalities. 

"A number of people and caretakers with children do not seek care early when they fall sick and do not consult the community health assistants," she said.

Many people self-medicate with counterfeit and poor drugs, according to Director Harley and fail to acquire mosquito nets during mass distribution programs.

She pledged the U.S Government support through the President’s Malaria Initiative to advance equality by increasing services to reach the disadvantaged and hard-to-reach population. 

Malaria awareness is marked on April 25 each year to raise awareness of the disease’s catastrophic effects on families, communities and societal development, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The theme for this year’s festival was 'Advance Equality, Build Resilience, End Malaria”.It began with a month of enormous social mobilization efforts and interagency sports tournament, as well as talk shows on four radio stations, including ELBC, Truth FM, OK FM and ECOWAS.  

The event culminated with a parade from the Ministry of Health’s premises in Oldest Congo Town on Friday, May 6, 2022, to the Paynesville City Hall for the climax of the activities.

During the parade officials from the ministry of Health and partners were chanting ' ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me’’ while educating the public about the disease.

According to D. Levi Hinneh, the National Malaria Control Program’s Deputy Program Manager for Surveillance, hosted the Roll Back Malaria Partnership program to discuss progress and difficulties in the fight against disease. 

"Key issues raised by the Public during the four Radio Stations included; the need for continued public engagement through similar interaction, the improvement of quality of care at public health facilities, monitoring of bed nets utilization after mass distribution and public awareness on the correct use of bed nets. The public also urged the Anti-Malaria Community to put a system in place to prevent the abuse of mosquito bed nets as seen in the streets daily,’’ he said.

C. Stanford Wesseh, Assistant minister of Vital Statistics, speaking on behalf of the Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah recommended that people use mosquito nets to avoid catching the disease.

It has been demonstrated to be cost effective, he claims. "It has been established that sleeping under a mosquito net and getting early medical attention saves money."

Hon. Wesseh pledged the Health Ministry's commitment to ensuring that those in hard-to-reach areas have access to mosquito nets and anti-malaria commodities at all facilities, particularly public health facilities, so that patients seek medical attention and adequate care.  

"As we strive to end malaria we know that in an under-resource country it is very difficult but there are effective interventions that we all can implement to ensure that we end malaria," he said.

Dr. Moses Jeuronlon, WHO, Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV Program Officer gave a message from WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, on behalf of Dr. Peter Clement the WHO Representative for Liberia. said despite a slowed rate of progress in reducing malaria incidences and deaths, as well as the delays by COVID-19, "we are still much further ahead than we were in 2000. We need to reignite that momentum, and build on the recent advances." 

He went on to say that today is  World Malaria Day, an opportunity to reaffirm government commitment and encourage continuing investment in malaria prevention and control.

Dr. Jeuronlon called on malaria-affected countries and people to collaborate closely with development partners while contributing to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals. 

"I personally, and the WHO Regional Office in Africa, remain fully committed to the fight against malaria. I believe we can overcome the challenge if we collaborate closely with governments, partners and communities".