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Malaria still a threat

Sub-Saharan Africa is still facing great threat from the disease that is caused by a mosquito bite. Thousands of children die of malaria every year and yet the region is unable to give the problem its deserved weight.

Sub-Saharan Africa is still facing great threat from the disease that is caused by a mosquito bite. Thousands of children die of malaria every year and yet the region is unable to give the problem its deserved weight.

For centuries, malaria, one of the big three killer diseases in Africa, rampages still. Millions of people die each year from a disease that can be preventable and treatable, as scientists claim.

Medical research has largely failed to address the disease that is affecting and devastating low-income countries of Africa.

The neglected tropical disease affects several millions of people and kills at least half a million annually, and yet receives not as much attention from donors, policymakers, and public health officials as it should.

If sub-Saharan Africa squarely faced the neglected diseases, including malaria, it would reap tangible benefits in terms of poverty reduction and economic development.

Recent statistics suggest that malaria affects 40% of the world’s population and threatens 2.4 billion people. It is estimated that it kills a child every 30 seconds.

90% of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. As such, malaria is undermining development in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The need for new, effective and affordable drugs to treat the parasitic disease responsible for an enor¬mous burden in the developing world is one of the issues facing health in sub-Saharan Africa today.

Available drugs to treat this disease (malaria) are limited by a number of social economic factors. These include parasite resis¬tance, population ignorance and cost.

Products representing entirely new innovations in medicinal chemistry are presently lacking. The disease is often poorly diagnosed and poorly treated as a result. This explains why we need more effective diagnostics for the disease.

Malaria does not only destroy people’s health, but also their wealth. It affects the society right from the individual level to the society level; which is why it is seen in developing countries as a disease that is responsible for the endless poverty, the disease that causes poverty.

Due to malaria, people have had to incur heavy costs on drugs, and this has greatly affected their economic development.

The said situation can be evidenced in the economic gaps between sub-Saharan African countries where malaria is endemic, and countries without malaria.

The risk of contracting malaria in endemic areas can deter investment, both internal and external, and affect individual and household decision making in many ways that have a negative impact on economic productivity and growth.

Are we therefore not forgetting the ‘economic attachment’ of the disease? Take an example of Rwanda that has been trying to find the right malaria drug for many years.

Though the ministry of Health in Rwanda is committed to improving and providing quality and sustainable health services to the entire population, its people are still struggling with a recent introduced anti-malaria drug. This is a great challenge.

The recommended malaria drug now, Coartem, is not right for children especially since you cannot access it in liquid form (syrup).

I am normally disturbed by how scientists agreed to give a newly born child the tablet. Could they be running short of alternatives or simply neglecting the ‘African thing’?

Babies are forced to take the tablet with little success. You will always find mothers desperately struggling to crush the tablet and mix it with breast milk or any other liquid, so that a baby can have it in liquid form.

A full dose cannot thus be realised and consequently the drug is never effective, making the affliction resistant in the process.

Apart from that, the drug cannot be accessed in private pharmacies and drug shops. This calls for each and every individual to line up for it in public hospitals and clinics. The idea that every individual gets treatment after a doctors’ examination is also not very wise.

It is not convenient for every individual to line up for the drug after getting a doctor’s ‘clearance’, because doctors are very rare in Rwanda, and cannot be accessed in the rural areas. Even in urban areas doctors are rare species except in large hospitals.

But perhaps if a doctor examined a patient and left them free to get the drug in any recognised pharmacy at their convenience, this would also work. This would give a simultaneous impact, as it also saves the already scarce medical staff from over working.

Malaria will therefore continue to hamper developing countries’ economies, if nothing serious is done to handle it. Poor nations virtually continue to be good habitat for the malaria-causing mosquitoes and hence the region continues to be vulnerable.

And yet, controlling the neglected disease remains to be one of the main prerequisites of ending poverty in the poor sub-Saharan Africa.


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