Rwanda has joined the recently launched Commonwealth Nations initiative to curb malaria by half in the next five years.
The initiative, launched on Wednesday at the Malaria Summit London 2018, on the sidelines of the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), calls on the 53 Commonwealth nations to halve the number of malaria cases worldwide by 2023.
The summit was co-hosted by the governments of Rwanda, Swaziland and the United Kingdom.
World Health Organisation says this could prevent 350 million cases of malaria and save 650,000 lives.
Making the commitment on behalf of Rwanda, Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that the surge in malaria across the world can be curbed through increased innovation, international cooperation, and improved health systems.
“The causes are multiple, ranging from climate change, to insecticide resistance, to an increase in man-made mosquito breeding sites. But we should not blame the mosquitoes or the weather, for malaria. We should blame ourselves. Each of the challenges can be anticipated, and addressed through research, innovation, and international cooperation, as well as capable national health systems,” the minister said.
She said that, like the rest of the world, there has been a complacence in the fight against malaria in Rwanda in recent years which could have seen the disease mutate.
“Rwanda is no exception to the global trend. A few years ago, we began to experience a spike in malaria, after years of decline. More than one-fifth of government expenditure in Rwanda is directed at health, a level we plan to maintain, and indeed increase in the years ahead. But when it came to malaria, we had grown complacent, and allowed the disease to regroup. Too many people were getting treated late, if at all,” she explained.
However, on realising the complacence, Mushikiwabo said that Rwanda deployed a number of approaches, including home-based management using tens of thousands of volunteer community health workers.
“We switched to home-based management, by making use of our network of tens of thousands of volunteer Community Health Workers, whose main job is monitoring child and maternal health. And two, we made treatment free. Today, Community Health Workers handle 55 per cent of malaria cases in Rwanda,” Mushikiwabo said.
As a result of the progress, the Government Spokesperson said that treatment access had increased significantly as had the mortality rates resulting from Malaria.
“As a result, the number of people treated increased significantly in 2016 and 2017, while the number of deaths fell,” she noted.
Among the challenges in addressing the prevalence of the ailment includes the cost of indoor residual spraying which has increased fivefold over the years largely due to the insecticide resistance.
This has seen the Government unable to pay for the entire population but focus on vulnerable districts.
Outdoor spraying is also no longer a viable approach due to health risks involved, Mushikiwabo said.
The minister said that Rwanda find the Commonwealth Nations objective feasible hence committing to take part in it.
“A world without malaria is surely among the objectives of our Commonwealth. I, therefore, endorse the commitment to cut malaria in half, across the Commonwealth, by 2023,” Mushikiwabo said.
The London meeting convened government leaders, the private sector players and NGO representatives rallying the 53 Commonwealth nations.