The news about the negative impact of the deadly disease malaria on the realization of our Millennium Development Goals was distressing enough. Health and Social Welfare Assistant Minister Tolbert Nyenswah told the seventh Malaria Day celebration last Friday that the disease claims 21,300 under five lives annually in Liberia alone! This adds to the millions of lives lost to the disease each year around the world, especially in Africa. It is nothing short of scandalous that we must lose annually 21,300 of our children under five to this scourge. We have to do something and do it very quickly to fight this disease with all our might.
While the world’s scientists search for an anti-malaria vaccine, we in this country must find all the means necessary to combat the disease. The first thing we must do is to keep our environs clean. This means we should clean inside our homes; our front and backyards, and our neighborhoods. It is everyone’s responsibility to do this.
But in addition, the city governments around the country, led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, should intensify the fight to take sanitation much more seriously. This means finding effective ways of handling our trash generated from the homes and marketplaces, beginning in the inner cities.
We here pose a direct challenge to Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale to come forward with strategies to clean up Monrovia and other cities around the country. Preventive measures are at the heart of Health and Social Welfare, for it is these measures, beginning with clean sanitation, that can repel mosquitoes and save our children’s lives.
One African Health Minister once remarked that he did not assume that job “to clean anyone’s backyard.” Well, look how much it costs us to fight malaria, which is a direct consequence of filthy surroundings. It is in filthy and sloppy surroundings and stagnant water that mosquitoes fester and breed, in order to launch their relentless and vicious attacks on our children—and not on them only but on adults, too, with some middle-aged men and women often being afflicted with four-plus malaria, a serious life-terrorist.
Surely we think is in the purview of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the harbinger of all these grim and horrendous statistics on the deadly scourge of malaria, to take a direct stake in keeping Liberia’s surroundings clean. There is no stronger preventive measure than that.
In addition, the Health Ministry must intensify its efforts to ensure that parents are regularly supplied with well treated mosquito nets. We understand that tens of thousands of these nets are regularly supplied to the Ministry by WHO and other friendly nations and institutions, to ensure that our children are protected from mosquito bites. Dr. Gwenigale and his team must ensure that these nets are delivered where they are needed most, to parents throughout the country. The Ministry knows that it must do everything possible to ensure that every net is accounted for, because it is only then that we can be sure that they will reach the children and save them from deadly mosquito bites.
We commend President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for signing an executive order this week waiving duties and taxes on the import of anti-Malarial drugs and products. This is definitely a step in the right direction.
We pray that the GOL will provide the Ministry the necessary funding to provide health centers and hospitals with the staff, equipment and supplies to render effective and speedy anti-malaria treatment to patients, especially the most vulnerable ones, the children under five. Where such hospitals and health centers do not exist, every effort should be made to build and install them where they are needed, especially in the remote parts of the country.
The John F. Kennedy Medical Center has done children in greater Monrovia a wonderful favor by establishing a special a clinic for children under five, free of charge. Perhaps the Ministry could in its next budget, provide the financial resources to fund such a clinic in all major hospitals and health centers around the country. This will be a big boost to the fight against malaria and other ailments that afflict our children, and save more of them to survive not only the critical year of five, but the entire childhood, adolescence and adulthood.