The government has announced an ambitious plan to end malaria deaths in the country by 2018.
The Rwanda Malaria Strategic Plan, announced yesterday, is a public health campaign coordinated by Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
It seeks to eventually eradicate the disease that killed more than 400 people last year.
The Rwanda Malaria Strategic Plan will receive $329 million (about Rwf223 billion) support from the Government of Rwanda, the President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund, an international nonprofit organisation.
Members of the nonprofit and medical communities gathered yesterday in Kigali to review the plan that centres on encouraging Rwandans to sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Other aspects of the strategic plan include rapid testing and treatment by community health workers within 24 hours of a patient showing signs of malaria, and monitoring of the disease by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
Dr Corine Karema, director of the Malaria Division at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said mosquito nets are the best way to prevent malaria infection.
“When we do a massive distribution of mosquito nets we notice a 50 per cent reduction in infections,” said Karema.
She said free mosquito nets are given to children under five when they see the doctor for their measles vaccine and to expecting mothers during prenatal examinations.
However, some people who receive the nets do not always sleep under it. Officials say their reasons border on culture.
Some think the nets are too hot to sleep under, inconvenient to use, and some people even claim to have allergies to them, said Sylvia Muteteli, who works on malaria community outreach with Urunana Development Communication.
Muteteli said her organisation, which had a hand in developing the strategic plan, tries to encourage use of the nets through creating radio soap operas and sketches to raise awareness of the importance of sleeping under one.
However, Muteteli added that she believes local leaders need to be more involved in the malaria prevention effort.
“We need more consolidated effort, even the involvement of the local leaders to the ownership of this, such that they feel we all contribute to the same goal,” Muteteli said.
Karema said the strategic plan addresses this concern. There will be a concerted effort to have more community leaders involved in spreading awareness of malaria prevention and treatment.
False beliefs that malaria may be near eradication have also contributed to the reluctance to use bed nets.
In 2011, only 210,000 malaria cases were reported, which led people to believe malaria was no longer a threat, according to Alphonse Rukundo, an epidemiologist specialising in malaria.
The strategic plan follows the establishment of the President’s Malaria Initiative in 2005.
The United Nations Development Programme has hailed the initiative for significantly reducing malaria infections in Rwanda.
Rwanda is among seven African countries that were in January recognised for exceptional progress in scaling up malaria control interventions.
The President’s Malaria Initiative is a United States government initiative that seeks to halve malaria deaths in 19 African countries, including Rwanda.