The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, says to avoid the danger of eroding progress against malaria, efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 should not compromise access to life-saving prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria.
She has, therefore, advised that; “We continue to observe the protocols of COVID-19, but we also pay attention to proper diagnosis of suspected malaria”.
In a message to mark World Malaria Day on Saturday, Mrs Akufo-Addo said over the past two decades the world had made great progress in the fight against malaria, saving more lives and preventing its related disabilities.
“However, as long as malaria exists, it threatens the poorest and most vulnerable, and has the potential to worsen, in times of public health crises, such as we face now,” she said.
“Indeed, efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect health systems and the population at large, yet these efforts, must not compromise access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services or threaten to reverse decades of hard-fought progress against malaria.”
“COVID-19 is straining our national health systems and challenging families, communities and countries. We are indeed not in normal times,” she said.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said it was unfortunate that this year COVID-19 was threatening the progress made in the fight against malaria, adding; “Now more than ever before, we need to put all our arsenals together to act more effectively”.
As countries continued to battle COVID-19, it was important to also highlight the importance of strengthening the health and surveillance systems, to help respond to emerging diseases, while also protecting and consolidating hard-fought progress against malaria, a long-standing deadly and dangerous foe, she said.
The First Lady said hit hardest against pregnant women and children in sub-Saharan Africa and, therefore, the need to prioritise reaching those groups with life-saving interventions to help reduce further the morbidity and mortality attributable to the disease.
She said while malaria deaths in children under-five dropped in 2018, children under five still accounted for 50 per cent of total malaria deaths in Ghana.
She, therefore, encouraged all, especially women and children, to sleep under a treated mosquito net, which would prevent mosquitoes from biting them.
Pregnant women should call on the nearest health facilities for the Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT-SP medicines) to protect themselves and their unborn children from the disease.
Mrs Akufo-Addo called on all persons to commit to supporting the fight against malaria by promoting antenatal care, advocating for increased investment in the disease and other health programmes and by simply standing in solidarity with those who were most affected.
She entreated all Ghanaians, especially political, traditional, religious and private sector leaders, to reaffirm their commitment to fighting and ending malaria.
“Ultimately, if we, and our development partners, invest in malaria control and prevention, and prioritise support for those at highest risk, we will make a notable impact against this deadly disease,” the First Lady said.
“Zero malaria is achievable when we all show commitment and collaborate better. We won’t achieve this overnight, but we will certainly get there, if we all work together.”
World Malaria Day is commemorated on 25th of April globally to reflect on the successes and challenges in the fight against the disease.