Following a recent malaria surge that saw 700,000 people contract the deadly tropical disease toward the end of last year, the Government is in the final phase of distributing 6.2 million treated mosquito bed nets.
The Head of the Malaria and other Parasitic Infections Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, told The New Times in an exclusive interview, last week, that the process to distribute the nets kicked off last month and will be concluded by the end of this month.
“For the Financial Year 2016/17, we purchased about 6.2 million mosquito nets and we have distributed almost all and we are only remaining with Nyamagabe District, which takes less than 500,000 nets,” he said.
Mbituyumuremyi said although the distribution is done every two years, there was a programme that runs concurrently, where pregnant women and mothers with children aged less than a year receive nets all year through.
“This window is to ensure that children born after we had the routine nationwide net distribution drive do not miss out. This particular drive was put in place to make sure that everybody is covered,” he said.
Mbituyumuremyi said malaria cases have been rising for the last three years, specially in the months of January, May, June, November, and December immediately after the rainy season.
“Malaria trends change but when we look at a 12-month period, in January 2016, we registered almost 500,000 cases all over the country and in November, we registered around 700,000 cases countrywide. All these months fall immediately after a rainy period,” he said.
He highlighted several interventions in the pipeline to stamp out the disease and some of them are already being implemented.
These include home-based malaria case management, where the Government trains community health workers, who are then equipped to diagnose and treat malaria at community level without someone necessarily going to facility level.
So far, about 30,000 community health workers have been deployed.
Mbituyumuremyi pointed to budgetary constraints, which he said force them to spray targeting high burden districts because the cost of insecticide is very high.
“We are so far only spraying in five districts yet our wish would have been to do it all over the country. The cost of doing this is around Rwf1.5bn, so it’s about Rwf50 billion (countrywide) and its required at least once a year. It’s a big budget and though we can say that spraying is an effective method, the affordability is a challenge,” he said.
In November, last year, Cabinet announced a decision that allows people who fall under the Ubudehe I and Ubudehe II category free malaria diagnosis and treatment.