KAMPALA– Campaigners and volunteers on Sunday held a bicycle race in Kampala aimed at raising awareness on malaria, the number one killer disease in the east African country.
The disease kills mostly children under five years and pregnant mothers, according to ministry of health figures.
“We have made progress, but a lot more needs to be done to end this disease that costs the country a lot in lives, money and the economy,” Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said as she flagged off the race.
As the world marks World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25 every year, Uganda is making preparations to use the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine to beef up efforts in the fight against the disease.
Last September, the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization opened up a window through which Uganda can use to apply for the vaccine.
In October last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the widespread use of the vaccine among children in areas with moderate and high malaria transmissions.
The recommendation was based on results of a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 900,000 children since 2019.
Ruth Aceng, the minister of health, said inoculation is scheduled to start next year for children under five years, especially in Uganda’s most malaria endemic areas. Four injections are required for full protection, she said.
Jimmy Opigo, assistant commissioner for the National Malaria Control Division at the ministry of health, said she is optimistic that Uganda will get enough vaccines, although production is currently low.
If few vaccines are got, he said, they will be used in the most affected areas, especially in the northwestern and northeastern regions.
The vaccines will work with other interventions already in place, like the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets, indoor and outdoor spraying, and clearing of bushes around homes, according to the health ministry.
These prevention and treatment measures are already yielding positive results. According to 2021 World Malaria Report, 9 percent of children below five years in Uganda tested positive for malaria, down from 43 percent in 2009.
The mortality, especially for children under five years, is less than 2 percent. Despite these successes, Uganda is still listed as among the top countries in the world with high malaria cases.
According to the WHO, in 2020, Uganda was among the six countries in Africa that accounted for 55 percent of all malaria cases globally.
Nigeria accounted for 26.8 percent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 12.0 percent, Uganda 5.4 percent, Mozambique 4.2 percent, Angola 3.4 percent, and Burkina Faso 3.4 percent.
Uganda was also among the eight countries in Africa that registered increases in mortality rate of between 5 percent and 25 percent.
The other countries are Angola, the DRC, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, and South Sudan.
Parts of Uganda, for instance around Lake Kyoga in the central region, have the highest recorded malaria transmission rates on the continent, according Malaria Consortium, a global non-profit organization specializing in the prevention, control and treatment of malaria and other communicable diseases.
On average, a person in Apac District, near Lake Kyoga, would receive more than 1,500 infectious bites per year, according to the organization.
Malaria is responsible for 30 percent to 40 percent of outpatient hospital visits, 15 percent to 20 percent of admissions and 10 percent of inpatient deaths, mostly pregnant mothers and children, according to the health ministry.
It remains a serious health problem that continues to hurt Uganda’s economic growth and social development. – Xinhua