The Government of Liberia has renewed its commitment to ensure that the devastating effects of malaria, which claims thousands of lives in the country annually, are brought under control.
This will be achieved with support from global partners such as World Health Organization, and Global Fund.
Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan said though government had made great strides against malaria by cutting its infection and death rate by half since 2010, the ferocious killer still remains a serious problem to the health system.
“It is imperative that we renew our commitment globally and as a nation to combat this disease,” the Foreign Minister declared. “We should continue this fight until we can feel comfortable that we have significantly reduced its impacts on the world at large,” he added.
Mr. Ngafuan made the remarks on Saturday at the Monrovia City Hall where he represented President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as launcher of the distribution of free LLINs (Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Mosquito Nets) Campaign, which also coincided with the global celebration of World Malaria Day.
The day was celebrated under the theme: “Invest in the future. Defeat malaria,” which highlights the need for increased financial and human resources, commodities and infrastructural investment to control and eliminate malaria.
He said that the Liberian government, with support from partners, has in the last ten years reduced malaria by over 50 percent and extended access to prompt and effective treatment by providing curative care at health facilities and pharmaceutical outlets in hard-to-reach communities.
“We have reduced the percentage of malaria cases that progress into complications from ten to five percent. We have extended diagnostic coverage from 60 percent in 2010 to close to 90 percent in 2013,” Minister Ngafuan said.
The government has also succeeded in suspending tariff on all anti-malaria commodities that come in the country. “We have instituted a ban on the importation of mono-therapies, amongst others,” he said.
Minister Ngafuan noted that by this campaign, government intends to make a strong statement that, “If we can strive to improve the utilization of the bed nets, we will be improving our indicator for malaria. We want to encourage every Liberian to take cover under the nets. Protect yourselves and your families against malaria and stay healthy because a healthy nation is a prosperous nation,” he added.
A statement from the WHO regional head for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, read by her Representative to Liberia, Dr Alex Gasasira, said limited access to and under-utilization of available malaria interventions within countries are the major causes of excessively high burdens of malaria cases and deaths.
For example, in 2013, she said, 33% of households in the Africa Region still did not own even a single LLIN and only 29% of households had enough LLINs.
Dr. Gasasira stressed that malaria can be prevented or controlled through the use of the LLINs, indoor residual spraying (IRS), preventive therapies for pregnant women, children under five and infants, as well as quality-assured diagnostic testing and treatment.
She noted that most malaria prone countries are still far from achieving universal coverage of these malaria interventions.
Increased funding for malaria is needed in order to save lives and further expand access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services in the region.
“This is even more critical, given the urgent need to tackle malaria drug-resistance and other emerging threats such as mosquito resistance to insecticides,” she said.
She called on countries and stakeholders to focus on targeting available resources at places where the burden of malaria is highest and at the people and groups who face the highest risk of malaria.
WHO, Dr. Gasasira assured, will continue to provide evidence-based guidance to all countries and stakeholders to better target malaria interventions, strengthen national health systems towards universal health coverage, and accelerate progress towards a malaria-free Africa.
The mosquito nets donated and brought into the country by the Global Fund to fight HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) are the single largest consignment since the start of the Global Fund Project in Liberia in 2005.