Rwanda records 60% reduction in malaria deaths

A drone sprays pesticides in Gataraga Sector, Musanze District last year. Drones are being used to rid communities of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Photo: File

A combination of hands-on preventive measures like spraying the most at risk homes, distribution of treated mosquito nets and deployment of community health workers have played a significant role in reducing the country’s malaria deaths by 60 percent, The New Times learnt this week.

This was revealed in an interview conducted last week with Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, the Head of the Malaria and other Parasitic Infections Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

 

Speaking exclusively to The New Times, Mbituyumuremyi said that the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic had not derailed the government’s dedication to fighting malaria.

 

“Our efforts to fight malaria have actually increased, focusing mostly on protective measures. By the time COVID-19 got to Rwanda, we had already started our program to distribute treated mosquito nets all over the country. We have so far distributed to 13 districts,” he said.

 

The government has also continued its program to spray residences and have so far serviced 13 of the 17 high risk districts.

It costs the government and its partners $2.5 million per year to spray one district while the cost of one treated mosquito net stands at $4. Every two years, 7.5 million nets are procured.

Reaping big

Mbituyumuremyi says that the exercises to spray and distribute treated mosquito nets have been ongoing for years and have mitigated the number of malaria infections and deaths.

“The idea to increase the number of districts that benefit from residential spraying has significantly reduced malaria infections in 12 districts in the last three years. The people who die from malaria and those who contract severe malaria has fallen by 60 percent,” he said.

According to the statistics issued by RBC, the number of recorded malaria cases reduced from 4.6 million in 2016 to 3.5 million in 2019 countrywide while those who contracted severe malaria reduced from 18000 in 2015/2016 to 7000 in 2018/2019.

The number of deaths reduced from 660 in 2015/2016 to 264 in 2018/2019.

Trials still prevail

While the reduction of malaria in Rwanda can also be attributed to the dedication of community health workers who deal with an estimated 57 percent of the patients, an increased work load has led to challenges in proper reporting.

Last year, Mbituyumuremyi told The New Times that there is the issue of budget limitation to cover indoor residual spraying for malaria control in all 15 high malaria burdened districts for proper malaria control in Rwanda.

Only five of 15 districts were sprayed in 2017 and 2018.

Early this year, the government deployed a local drone technology company to rid communities of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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