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Severe malaria drops by 38% in Rwanda

A mother with her baby under a mosquito net. According to a report by the Ministry of Health on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, severe malaria cases dropped by 38% in 2019/20 fiscal year, thanks to home-based management interventions, free treatment of malaria for Ubudehe Categories I and II, and the quality of care at health facilities. / Photo: File.

In its annual Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Report, the Ministry of Health says that the national malaria incidence reduced from 401 cases per 1,000-person in 2017-2018 fiscal year to 200 cases per 1,000-person in 2019-2020.

According to the report, 4,358 cases of severe malaria (representing a 38 per cent reduction) were reported at the health facility level compared to 7,054 in 2018-2019.

 

However, although the number of people who died as a result of malaria could have reduced by 105 in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, 41 of those who succumbed were children under five (representing 25 per cent of all malaria deaths), The New Times can reveal.

 

The report indicates that 80 per cent of the victims had cerebral malaria.

 

Decrease in deaths

The decrease in malaria deaths is attributed to home based management interventions, the free treatment of malaria for Ubudehe Categories I and II and the quality of care at health facility level.

A man carries out indoor residual spraying in Bugesera District in 2018. This is one of the ways to fight malaria in Rwanda. Photo: File.

There has also been a steady increase of proportion of children under 5 and above plus adults who are seeking care from 13 per cent to 58 per cent in 2015-2016 and 2019-2020 respectively.

“This indicates that interventions such home based treatment of children and adults that contributed to early diagnosis and treatment have been successful in decreasing the number of severe cases and consequently the number of malaria deaths,” the report indicates.

The free treatment of poor people in Ubudehe Category I and II also removed the financial barriers for access to health care.

The Head of the Malaria and other Parasitic Infections Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, recently agreed that the above measures and a combination of other 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.

Patients wait for services at Masaka Hospital in Kicukiro District in August. Photo: Craish Bahizi.

“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. So far 24 districts are covered for Mass Campaign Distribution,” he said.

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.

Current status

Mbituyumuremyi, has previously told The New Times that although malaria trends change, malaria is at its peak after the rainy season, especially the months of November, December and January due to the November rains.

Then it increases again in May and June due to the rainy season of April.

As part of its preventive measures, indoor spraying is currently ongoing in three districts.

In a telephone interview, Mbituyumuremyi who is currently in Ngoma district, Eastern province to oversee the spraying of that area said that the same activity is ongoing in Nyagare and Kirehe districts.

“The plan for this year was to do indoor spraying in 13 district that we consider high risk. These three are the last. Before that, we sprayed in Kayonza, Rwamagana, Gatsibo, Huye, Nyanza, Gisagara, parts of Rusizi, Kamonyi, Ruhango and Bugesera districts,” he said.

Mbituyumuremyi explained that the in-house spraying in September is in preparation for December when malaria season arrives.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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