Surge in malaria cases despite Uganda’s war on the disease

Saturday August 17 2019

A mother with her child sleep under a mosquito net.

A mother with her child sleep under a mosquito net. Uganda has registered a 40 per cent surge of new cases over the past one year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EVELYN LIRRI
By EVELYN LIRRI
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In 2018, Uganda became the first of 11 countries which account for the highest burden of malaria disease to launch a targeted malaria control response. This was a global campaign to reduce cases and deaths caused by malaria by at least 40 per cent by 2020 and subsequently by 75 per cent by 2025.

However, this effort is now hitting a brick wall after the country’ registered a 40 per cent increase in cases of the disease in the past year alone.

According to the Ministry of Health, malaria cases increased from 1 million in June 2018 to 1.4 million by June 2019, a situation the government said has been exacerbated by climate change, failure by the public to properly use insecticide treated bed nets and a low prevalence of the disease in some areas, leading to laxity in using available preventative tools.

“People living in areas with low malaria prevalence such as Kampala and the highlands of Kigezi and Mount Elgon are prone to severe malaria due to low immunity. It is therefore important that they protect themselves whenever they travel to high malaria transmission areas,” said Dr Ruth Aceng, Health Minister.

She also noted that seasonal rain in the months of April to June have contributed to the peak of cases in the past few weeks. Despite the figures, the ministry says it is making progress in tackling the disease, having reduced malaria related deaths from 5,100 in 2017 to 3200 annually in 2018.

Malaria prevalence has also dropped from 42 per cent in 2009 to 9 per cent this year.

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So far, the malaria upsurge has affected 65 districts in the country — especially in the West Nile, Northern and central regions. But Dr Aceng said the current numbers reported in areas such as Kampala is similar to cases of the disease that was reported in the same period in 2018.

“In Kampala during the month of June 2019, we registered 27,159 cases of malaria compared with 28,086 registered in the same month the previous year. However, the number of severe forms of malaria requiring admission has increased by 60 per cent compared with the same period in 2018,” Dr Aceng noted.

According to Dr Aceng, the ministry has now made emergency supplies for Artemisinin based combination therapy and rapid diagnostic tests to be distributed to health facilities across the country, as one of the interventions to address the problem. In the meantime, the government has also advised the public to sleep under insecticide treated nets and seek early medical care when they develop unexplained fever.

Uganda remains one of 11 countries that account for 70 per cent of all malaria cases globally. Other countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and India.