East African Community (EAC) member states are set to come up with a new malaria prevention plan which has identified a need to control all cross border movements especially from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The three day Kigali meeting of ministry of health representatives from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and DRC agreed that unless the prevention plan is revised, malaria infections and deaths will continue increasing.
Officials said that all seven countries are pursuing malaria control programmes but there has been failure to control malaria.
The main concern was that in 2005 directives of the 9th EAC Minister’s Sectoral Council in Zanzibar, Tanzania were not implemented to the tune.
“After nine other meetings since, it’s clear we didn’t do much. We now need a clear and defined cross-border initiative that considers the perspective of movement of refugees and border crossing especially from DRC,” said Dr. Michael Jackson Katende, the Principal Health official, EAC Secretariat.
In 2016, world malaria report showed an estimate 216 million cases of malaria and 445,000 deaths. It was indicated that 91 of them were from Africa.
Shockingly DRC and Burundi alone accounted for 59% and 26% respectively of the 31.7 millions of malaria cases in the central African region.
In 2016, DRC witnessed over 16.8million cases of reported and confirmed malaria, with 33,997 deaths; while Burundi had 8.7million and 5,853 deaths and Uganda had 9.3million and 5,635 deaths.
Tanzania had 5.1 million cases and 5,045 deaths.
Rwanda reported over 4.7million cases with 715 deaths. Kenya had the least cases with over 2.9million patients and 603 deaths.
“As a result of business and trade, millions of EAC citizens are estimated to be crossing the border communities, either carrying with them malaria or coming back with it. We therefore need a plan that will not conflict with border operations and authorities,” said Dr. Katende.
At the end of the three days, health officials are expected to draft a definite plan of action and select a team to oversee its implementation.
In the meantime, World Health Organisation (WHO) has given the region a task to fulfill some requirement and fill the gaps especially in vector control and mass medication campaign and community involvement.
For example, ensure universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, accelerate efforts towards elimination and attainment of malaria free status and transform malaria surveillance into a core intervention in areas of high and low transmission and those targeted for elimination.
“If we generalize cases on malaria we will not be able to control it. We need to know where and how our people are dying but also need innovation in rapid test, surveillance and an enabling environment with financing and a robust private sector intervention,” said Dr. Elisabeth Juma, the WHO Africa Region representative.