A new national anti-malaria campaign has been launched with the goal of curtailing the upsurge in incidence.
The fresh effort is contained in a contingency plan drawn up after authorities and other actors identified gaps that were blamed for the rolling back of previous gains made in the battle against one of the world’s most lethal diseases.
The new drive was unveiled on Thursday at an event in Kigali, during which the Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Jeanine Condo, made a passionate appeal to grassroots authorities across the country to join in the effort, by mainly sensitising communities on hygiene and sleeping under bed-nets.
She said local leaders should use existing platforms such as the monthly community work (Umuganda) to get residents to clear bushes and stagnant water in their respective neighbourhoods – which she said are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The call was made Thursday at the launch of the revised national malaria contingency plan (2017-2020) in Kigali, which brought together district hospital directors and district vice mayors in charge of social affairs from across the country.
She said that, in 2017, RBC, in collaboration with key stakeholders, conducted an in-depth analysis on the increase in malaria incidences – despite efforts to stop the upsurge – and it was recommended that there was need for a new strategy with a contingency plan.
“Among the strategic interventions include avoiding delays in procurement which has been seen in previous years and this led to persistent lack of accurate protection; ensuring consistent and effective IRS (Indoor Residue Spraying) in high malaria endemic districts; and stepping up campaigns towards behavioral change,” she said.
RBC data analysis of malaria trends indicated that between 2008 and 2009, malaria incidence dropped to as low as 36 per 1,000, but they started going up again – surging to 112 per 1000 people in 2013/14 and to 418 per 1000 in 2016/17.
Recorded at a baseline of 82 per 1000 in 2011/12, the incidence of malaria had quadrupled by 2016/17.
Despite the malaria upsurge, however, the ministry says there was a substantial decline in fatality rates, from 3.5 per cent in 2011/12 to 1.5 per cent in 2016/17.
Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, the division manager for malaria and other parasitic diseases at RBC, said the new contingency plan seeks to not only reduce morbidity but also mortality.
“While it’s difficult to nail down specific causes of malaria increase, we have explored some of the possible causes such as climatic anomaly with the consistent increase of temperature since 2012, increase of breeding sites (such as rice plantations, irrigation schemes, mining quarries…), mosquito resistance to pyrethroid insecticide, low coverage of districts in implementing IRS, among others,” he said.
Jean Damascene Harerimana, the vice mayor, social affairs, Kayonza, one of the districts with high malaria morbidity, said they would work with all local leaders to ensure the contingency plan is carried out to the letter.
He said that some people who were given mosquito nets diverted them to fishing, a practice he said they will actively fight going forward.