-Despite progress on Prevention, reveals 2016 Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey
The 2016 Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey (LMIS) report released yesterday by the Ministry of Health (MOH) has revealed that the infection rate still remains high despite progress being made by the government in recent years.
The report, which came from the ministry’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) division, provides data on malaria knowledge, prevention, and treatments, noting that the survey revealed that 4,290 households were diagnosed with malaria.
Children between the ages of 6 and 59 months comprising nearly 45 percent who were tested for malaria and anemia were proven positive by rapid diagnostic test.
The LMIS survey report further revealed that malaria is most common among children in central and southeastern Liberia-constituting over 60%, and that those living in rural areas are twice more likely to have malaria than children living in urban areas (62% versus 30%). Overall, 8% of Liberian children are severely anemic.
Oliver J. Pratt, program manager of NMCP said more than six in 10 Liberian households own an insecticide-treated net (ITN), an increase from half of households in last survey in 2011.
Mr. Pratt added household ownership covered in the survey contain at least one ITN ranges from 45% in the South Central region to 77% in North Central region.
He further said 42% of Liberians have access to an ITN, and 39% of the population slept under an ITN the night before the survey, indicating that when Liberians have access to ITNs, they use them.
Mr. Pratt explained that the 2016 LMIS report also provide data on use of ITNs among vulnerable populations: “Four in 10 pregnant women and 44 percent under five slept under an ITN the night before the survey.
“For more than three-quarters of children with fever in the two weeks before the survey, care or treatment was sought. Care seeking behavior has also been on the rise,” Pratt added.
The NMCP program director recalled that in 2011, care preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTP) has not increased over the last five years. After having more than doubled between 2009 and 2011, pregnant women receiving three or more doses of SP/Fansidar has decreased slightly, from 26 percent in 2011 to 22 percent in 2016.
“Despite progress on these prevention interventions, the 2016 LMIS found that prevalence of malaria remains high. The survey tested children age 6-59 months for malaria and anemia.
“Nearly half (45%) of Liberian children tested positive for malaria by rapid diagnostic test,” he said in the LMIS report.
Mr. Pratt said malaria is most common among children in the North central and South Eastern regions, where over 60 percent of children tested positive.
“Children living in rural areas are twice as likely to have malaria as children living in urban areas (62% versu 30%). Overall, 8% of Liberian children are severely anemic,” he stated.
Health Minister, Dr. Bernice Dahn, who launched the 2016 LMIS report on behalf of the government, expressed gratitude to the NMCP team for the tremendous work done so far in releasing the report.
“It is a pleasure to launch the released of the results of the 2016 LMIS, as we heard the survey is the third and is a composite of the demography and health survey of the Republic of Liberia.
“We are grateful to the tremendous work that our field team put into the survey and will also like to thank the community members and households that were survey,” she said.
Dr. Dahn further commends Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from President’s Malaria Initiative funds through ICF for their support.
She challenged the NMCP to go beyond the survey and develop new ideas that will benefit the program.
“The team implementing 2016 LMIS went into about 4,000 households taking blood samples to test for malaria and anemia in all children 6 to 59 months present in those households.
“We want to acknowledge the rate of the response from the households – 99 percent eligible household’s respondent and 97 percent women of reproductive age were successfully interviewed, 86 percent of eligible children gave blood for malaria and anemia testing and I think those results are very good.
“Looking at the data, we do see some progress made in the malaria control program,” she said.
Dr. Alex Gassasira, World Health Organization (WHO) also applauded the MOH for the significant improvement in its malaria control program in the country.
He said Liberia is one of the many African countries which have made significant impact in the malaria prevention area and promised that the WHO will continue to work with government to provide better health services for its people.