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IS MALARIA ELIMINATION IN AFRICA POSSIBLE?

By Jereaghogho Efeturi Ukusare

An infectious disease caused by a small flying insect known as mosquito is called Malaria. It affects humans and other animals as a result of parasitic protozoans deposited in the body by the female mosquito called Anopheles Mosquito. Symptoms of the disease begin ten to fifteen days after the mosquito’s infection and in a case where a preventive drug has been taken, it takes between 18 to 25 days. 

The disease is widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. This includes Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2016 alone, 216 million cases of malaria was recorded worldwide and an estimated 731,000 deaths were recorded. Bulk of the cases and deaths occurred in Africa.

Malaria is commonly associated with poverty and has a major negative effect on economic development. In Africa, it is estimated to result in losses of US$12 billion a year due to increased healthcare costs, lost man hours and the negative effects it has on tourism on the continent. 

The disease is most commonly transmitted by an infected female mosquito. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito into an individual’s bloodstream.  The parasites move onto the liver where they mature and reproduce.

Malaria is usually diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood using blood films or with antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests in a laboratory. The method of polymerase chain reaction to detect the parasite’s DNA have been developed. However, it is not widely in use in areas where malaria is common as a result of cost and complexity.

The treatment for malaria is a combination of antimalarial medications that includes an artemisinin and mefloquine or lumefantrine or sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Quinine and doxycycline could be used if an artemisinin is not available. The recommendation is that in areas where the disease is common, malaria is confirmed possibly before treatment starts as a result of increasing drug resistance of the disease. If it is not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later.

Mosquito bites could be prevented through the use of mosquito nets and insect repellents or with mosquito control measures such as spraying insecticides and draining standing water. Several medications are available to prevent malaria. Occasional doses of the combination medication sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine are recommended in infants and after the first trimester of pregnancy in areas with very high rates of malaria. 
Inspite of the fact that there is an urgent need, no effective vaccine exists and this brings to mind the essence of several meetings held by government agencies and ministries. Regional organisations and sub regional organisations have held conferences and meetings as well one of which was the “Technical Meeting on Malaria Vector Control in the Ecowas region” which was held in Cotonou in 2011. 

All of these activities have not yielded any positive results as to the elimination of malaria from the continent. Billions of dollars lost every year, lives lost every year as a consequence of the presence of the disease in Africa should ideally necessitate a joint action by African governments towards the elimination of this disease from Africa. It is strongly recommended that African Leaders make deliberate efforts by allocating sufficient funds and judiciously utilising these funds to eradicate malaria from the continent. 

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