Dr. Aba Baffoe-Wilmot, a medical entomologist, said on Tuesday the direct and indirect costs of malaria in Africa exceeded $2billion dollars a year.
She said the disease was responsible for a “growth penalty” of up to 1.3% while estimated annual economic burden in Africa stood at 1.7 billion dollars, representing 1.3% of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product.
Dr. Baffoe-Wilmot of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) said this at a press briefing in Sunyani in connection with the celebration of World Malaria Day.
The Day was instituted by the World Health Assembly at its 60th assembly and is held on April 25 every year to recognize global efforts to provide effective control of malaria.
Dr. Baffoe-Wilmot expressed appreciation that Ghana had made progress with a consistent reduction in cases and deaths and commended the government, donors and other relevant institutions for their contributions.
She, however, noted with regret that malaria affected economic growth and development, with 3,000,000 cases of the disease recorded annually in the country, resulting in 3,859 deaths. Some 1,500 children under five years and 60 pregnant women die every year from the disease.
Dr. Wilmot-Baffoe said NMCP distributed 7.8 million Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) to thousands of households in the country between 2010 and 2011.
She said the programme was expected to supply 12 million nets to meet the country’s Universal Access target by the end of 2012.
She said Ghana targeted an expansion of coverage for malaria treatment using Artemisinim-based Combination Therapy (ACTs) to rise from 12% in 2008 to 80%
at health facilities and 65% at community levels.
Dr. Baffoe-Wilmot said in spite of the achievements made in the control of malaria in the country, there was still the need for support and commitment from the government and private/corporate organisations to sustain the gains and save lives.
“In Ghana, under-five mortality has decreased from 120/1000 to 80/1000”, she said.
Dr. Keziah Malm, Deputy Programme Manager of the NMCP, said clinical trials were being carried out in the country for the manufacture of malaria vaccine.
She said scientists conducting the trials had made significant strides and expressed optimism that by 2015 an effective vaccine would have been produced to help bring the spread of the disease under control.
Mr. James Frimpong, Programme Officer at the NMCP, said the Brong-Ahafo Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service had taken delivery of 1,203,288 LLINs to be distributed to households.
He mentioned poor attitude towards the usage of the nets, people’s disregard for proper environment management as well as uncertainty of continuous donor support, as some of the challenges the programme faced.
Mr. Frimpong appealed to the public to allow volunteers engaged for the distribution to enter their rooms to install the nets for them.
In a speech read for him, Dr. Timothy Letsa, Brong-Ahafo Regional Director of Health, said malaria continued to be the largest contributor to the disease burden in the region.
He said the disease constituted 39% of all out patient attendance in the region and to this end a number of interventions had been scaled-up and more others still being planned under the NMCP.
These include use of rapid diagnosis kits at the lower level, insecticide treated bed nets, larviciding and environmental management, as well as subsidizing anti-malaria drugs, to make them affordable. GNA