By Momodou Jarju
The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), has warned against the diversion of funds meant for the fight against the killer disease malaria.
AMMREN is a Pan-African media advocacy group of journalists and scientists, working together to reduce the burden of malaria in Africa. The group said funds set aside for activities such as the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and control of malaria, should not be diverted to fight against the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
“Doing so will have serious implications for the elimination of malaria or even lead to a resurgence of malaria cases especially in malaria-endemic countries in Africa,” the Network said in a press statement issued on 24th April 2020, in commemoration of World Malaria Day (WMD) under the theme: “Zero Malaria Starts With Me”.
AMMREN said the World Health Organization (WHO), expressed similar concerns in a statement released in March and urged countries to ensure the continuity of malaria services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The dispatch said Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program sent messages to malaria-affected countries in Africa and adds that access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services should not be compromised in the efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19; that Dr. Alonso warned that this will threaten to reverse decades of hard-fought progress against malaria.
“Do not scale back your planned malaria prevention, diagnostic and treatment activities and if someone is living in a place with malaria develops a fever, he or she should seek diagnosis and care as soon as possible,” he added according to the statement.
According to AMMREN, pregnant women and children continue to be hardest hit with an estimated 11 million pregnant women living in thirty-eight African countries infected with malaria in 2018. As a result, AMMREN said nearly 900 000 babies were born with low birth weights which is a major risk factor for infant mortality.
“Globally, children under the age of five account for two-thirds of all malaria deaths in 2018. Records show that every two minutes, a child dies of malaria,” AMMREN highlighted; that for these reasons, the African network urges all stakeholders not to abandon the fight against malaria and called for stepped-up action across endemic countries particularly those countries hardest hit by the killer disease. Stakeholders such as traditional rulers, community and opinion leaders, Churches and local civil society organizations have been urged to lend support to the awareness creation efforts of Governments in malaria prevention and control activities including the use of treated bed nets and testing, before treating malaria.
“National Malaria Control Programs (NMCP) should work with various partners especially local authorities to readily make available supplies of malaria test kits. This will scale up rapid diagnosis across all public health facilities from the lowest to the bigger ones, to prevent presumptuous treatment of malaria cases and the proper diagnosis of other febrile illnesses for proper health intervention,” the African Network said; that with political will and commitment, the war against malaria will be won and COVID-19 cannot and should not be an excuse to forget about malaria.