The Rwanda Defence Forces has committed to the fight against malaria in the country.
This was announced at a one day malaria symposium in Kigali yesterday organised by the Rwanda Military Hospital Kanombe, which is backed by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Health, in this cause.
It was held under the theme, “Means and ways to eradicate malaria completely.”
The symposium was attended by health experts from within and outside the country, as well as civil society and private sector actors.
Participants discussed new strategies that can bring about significant reduction in malaria cases with a long-term objective of eliminating the disease in Rwanda.
Brigadier General Dr Emmanuel Ndahiro, the commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe, referred to the symposium as an opportunity for the stakeholders in health sector to debate and discuss the current high resurgence of malaria.
“It is true Rwanda has been one of the countries that have of recent had remarkable success in fighting malaria. The years between 2005 to 2012 saw large scale successes registered…malaria cases reduced by 86 per cent, morbidity due to malaria reduced by 87 per cent and mortality by 74 per cent. However, whatever strategies that were laid last year did not stop the resurgence of malaria, where 2 million cases were registered,” he said.
The symposium also served as a platform for the military hospital to present what it is capable of doing in the fight against malaria, as they bid to make the hospital a centre of excellence in the fight against the disease.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, malaria prevalence in Rwanda stands at two per cent and the country registered about two million malaria cases last year, up from just 514,000 in 2012.
Olushayo Olu, the country representative of the World Health Organisation, blamed the malaria resurgence on the fact that mosquitoes have become resistant to some insecticides.
Likewise, he said, the plasmodium (the germ that causes malaria) has become resistant to some drugs.
He said that such a symposium is important to analyse the malaria situation in the country, reflect on what has been done so far and find out the challenges and forge the way forward.
He also commended the efforts of the government in fighting the disease.
“I must say that a lot of work has been done and I really want to commend the Government of Rwanda for the effort put in response to the increasing threat. Our dream for Rwanda is zero malaria cases and I believe that we have the political will and the technical capacity (to achieve it). In this regard be totally assured of our total support as WHO,” he said.
Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister for Health, commended the RDF’s commitment to fighting malaria and called for more vigilance from all stakeholders in order to eradicate the disease.
“Malaria is a threat. It is not only a health threat. It is an economic threat too. Do you know how many days of work people are missing because they are sick? Do you know how many kilometers a mosquito flies a day? Four to twenty two kilometers. And now they fly higher because of global warming. Every female mosquito can produce 200 eggs. We are glad that our armed force has joined the battle,” she said, stressing that the ministry’s target is zero deaths due to malaria.
Lt Col Dr Jules Kabahizi, the head of internal medicine at Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe, said the hospital will involve more experts and researchers. He also promised that the force will continue with its outreach medical work, especially during the Army Week.
“We shall sensitise people not only on malaria but also on cleanliness, and prevention of other diseases. It is possible to eradicate malaria from the country if all the stakeholders take the responsibility of working together,” he said.
Last year, at least 903,150 treated mosquito nets were distributed in seven high malaria prone districts, three high malaria prone districts were sprayed, 99 per cent of the people who reported to health centres were tested, treated and more research is going on in an etymology laboratory at Rwanda Biomedical Centre on insecticide resistance by mosquitoes, according to Dr Corine Karema, the head of Malaria Division at the ministry.
Dr Gausi Khoti, a World Health Organisation official based in Harare, Zimbabwe, said it is possible for Rwanda and other African countries to achieve zero cases of malaria citing an example of Mauritius, where there is no longer any domestic case of malaria.
“There has been some good progress. But we should not relax, let us keep on our toes,” he said.