Gambia on track to eliminate malaria by 2020

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The Gambia could become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate malaria.

This feat is based on its track record of combating the mosquito-borne disease. To achieve this feat, experts say the country would need more donor funds for the last mile of the drive. The country’s National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) revealed that the prevalence of the malaria parasite in children under five has plunged to 0.2 percent from 4 percent in 2011. Its data revealed that the total number of new malaria cases across the West African nation has fallen by about 40 percent in that time – to 155,450 last year down from 262,000 in 2011.

NMCP head Balla Kandeh, said Gambia is aiming to achieve the milestone of having no new malaria cases by 2020, but donor fatigue is a concern with a funding gap of over $25 million.

“This last mile is the most difficult – we need more support to sustain the gains we have made yet donors often turn their attention elsewhere as cases drop,” he said, adding that malaria rates in Gambia may rebound if more funding is not secured soon.”

Kandeh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the country now has a better working environment under the new government with less constraints and less political uncertainty.
“The fear of the unknown has gone,” Kandeh said.

TRF reported that aside from the usual control measures, such as antimalarial drugs, insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying, Gambia has successfully used technology to tackle malaria.

Carla Fajardo of aid agency Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said: “Tablets, online platforms and GPS have been used to track delivery of the above strategies, with real-time data enabling decisions to be made on the fly, while internet service providers have boosted bandwidth in remote areas.”

Globally, huge strides have been made against malaria since 2000, with death rates plunging by 60 percent and at least six million lives saved globally. However, as TRF observed, efforts to end one of the world’s deadliest diseases – which kills about 430,000 people a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa – are under threat as mosquitoes become increasingly resistant to measures such as bed nets and drugs.

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Paul is a university lecturer, medical researcher, extensively published author and freelance contributor. He holds a MSc degree in cell biology and genetics, and is a PhD candidate of the University of Ibadan.

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