Rwanda fighting malaria epidemic

By Olive Adjakotan

KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – Rwandan health officials have told Anadolu Agency that the country is on track in its fight against a malaria epidemic which claimed over 400 lives last year alone.

Rwanda’s health minister Agnes Binagwaho said the number of malaria infections in the country had quadrupled between 2012 and 2015, reaching nearly two million people.

The World Health Organization has identified Sub-Saharan Africa as being home to 88 percent of all malaria cases and 90 percent of malaria deaths. About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria, the WHO says.

However, Binagwaho believes Rwanda is on the right path to fulfilling a ‘zero death’ campaign pledge made in January as no malaria deaths have been recorded since the beginning of 2016.

“We need to focus on actions that can be done in our environment for all the places where mosquitoes [carriers of the epidemic] breed: cover the water supplies; clean stagnant water; use the right insecticides because there is resistance,” the minister added.

Last week, Binagwaho held a meeting with local opinion leaders, including imams, pastors and priests, to better popularize the ‘zero death’ goal.

Over the past 10 years, Rwanda has scaled-up malaria control programs and set ambitious goals in their 2013 – 2018 Malaria Strategic Plan. Among these was reaching ‘pre-elimination status’ [a test positivity rate of less than five percent] and near-zero malaria deaths by 2018, according to USAID.

The country will distribute five million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to families in 2016, an operation that began in February, costing $22 million.

This strategy has helped to reduce the morbidity rate to 75 percent, Binagwaho claimed.

In 2015, 900,000 treated mosquito nets were distributed in the country and 90 percent of people who were reported to health centers were tested and treated, the government says.

The emergency plan will also involve 45,000 health workers, mainly volunteers who will be deployed across the country – especially in border zones – to educate local populations.

Moussa Dorigo, a health worker in the Biryogo district of Kigali told Anadolu Agency why he wanted to get involved:

“Seeing babies, mothers who died from malaria, I decided to participate, to contribute in the field of health.

“I go into every household to explain how to prevent malaria. It is going well for the moment because people understand our mission. The Rwandan army is also involved in the fight against malaria across the country. Jules Kahibizi, a doctor at a military hospital in Kanombe, Kigali told Anadolu Agency: “We received about 50 cases since the beginning of the year. That’s a record. Now the focus is on mass awareness [through] the use of radios, meetings or community work for [people] to get the message.”