Uganda Malaria Reduction Activity turns attention to Busoga’s wanting malaria situation
By Claire Zerida Balungi
Who has never suffered from malaria in this room?” Mr. Benjamin Binagwa asked. Discerning the humour in his own statement, the Chief of Party for the Malaria Reduction Activity (MRA) added, “…there could be some lucky ones. If you are here please stand up for a prize. Everybody in the conference room at Jinja-based Source of the Nile Hotel that day, July 26, 2022, remained seated. The eager but unsurprised event photographers must have been disappointed upon the realization that of all the District Health Officers, Resident District Commissioners, Chief Administrative Officers, and malaria focal persons that had convened at this Inception meeting of the Malaria Reduction Activity into Busoga Region, none had not battled the illness before. They had nothing to capture of this hilarious moment.
“It’s always good to talk about something that we all are aware of- something we have gone through; If I had asked if someone had suffered from Covid-19, some would hide and others would deny. People suffered from Covid-19 but that’s not something you go around the world saying openly. For the case of malaria, we are comfortable and in fact, people shall say, this is just musudha [fever].” Mr. Binagwa said, before he appreciated the audience for taking time to convene for that day’s very important call on malaria.
Globally, Uganda is the third highest contributor of malaria cases and the eighth in deaths across the globe. Malaria is endemic to about 95% of the country and about 14 (a taxi/matatu) people die of malaria in Uganda every day. Busoga region is currently the highest contributor to the malaria cases in the entire country (21%).
Dr. Kibuuka Asizi, an Internal Medicine consultant based at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital noted that it is mostly children, pregnant mothers and the elderly presenting with severe malaria. He pointed to the issue of patients being very complacent and seeking for health care late. Reportedly, some of the possible challenges that influence this behaviour are; shortage of antimalarial drugs, patients doing self-medication leading to severe cases and complications of malaria, mostly anaemia which is worsened by the shortage of blood in the region. Despite having a blood collection centre, the analysis is not done in the region and this causes unnecessary delays and consequently, severity of the illness, resulting in death.
The Uganda Malaria Reduction and Elimination Plan/Strategy which was presented by Dr. Moreen Amutuhaire from the Ministry of Health is a five-year plan which delivers a tailored combination of malaria interventions to accelerate malaria burden reduction. It provides a common framework for the government, development partners, private sector and all stakeholders to accelerate nationwide scale-up of evidence-based malaria reduction interventions.
The strategy looks at six strategic objectives, namely:
1. Accelerating access to malaria prevention curative services to achieve universal coverage in all eligible populations by 2025
2. Enhancing malaria services in at least 80% of private health facilities that are managing malaria
3. At least by 2025, 90% of the population sustain their knowledge and practice and utilize correct malaria management and curative services
4. Decisions of malaria programming at all levels to be guided by functional and comprehensive surveillance systems and data repository for effective subnational reports (e.g utilization of data before it gets to national level)
5. Establishing a system for malaria elimination in targeted districts
6. Strengthened enabling environment to deliver malaria interventions and measure progress through coordinated partnerships and multisectoral collaborations
Dr. Amutuhaire noted that prevention is still very key and that the Ministry of Health does not undermine the efforts of it. She called on regional influencers to support the initiative to tweak the tools that MRA shall have come with, for better effect of the cause of eliminating malaria from the Busoga region.