Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Health Minister last Monday considered malaria as a serious threat to the peoples' health and the economy, stressing the need for urgent actions to prevent the disease from eroding the National Health Insurance Fund.
He told Parliament in Accra that the estimated annual total economic cost of malaria was US$772.4 million, an equivalent to the total annual budget of the Ministry of Health for the year 2008.
In a presentation to seek approval of the House for GH¢ 752.23 million for the Ministry of Health for the fiscal year 2008, Major Quashigah said the total economic cost of malaria to Ghana's economy was as colossal as acquiring 30,000 four-by-four wheel drive pick-ups within a year.
The amount can also purchase 5.5 million barrels of oil and also was more than the cost of the Bui Electrification Project, and was also equivalent to 10 per cent of Ghana's GDP growth for the year 2006.
The House approved the budget for the Ministry. The Minister gave the assurance of the Ministry to put the spread of malaria in check. 'Mr Speaker... we will continue with the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets and promote the Intermittent Treatment of Malaria among pregnant women as well as the proper management of those with malaria,' Major Quashigah said.
According to the Minister, last year his outfit put in place programmes to improve malaria case management in all health facilities and promoted home-based care with emphasis on symptoms detection, early treatment and intensified the use of insecticide treated nets among pregnant women and children below five years.
In a review of the National Health Insurance Scheme in 2007, the Minister said 143 schemes were currently in operation but the number is expected to increase to 148 by the end of the year.
He said Government had so far released GH¢ 140.33 million to support the NHIS programme, adding that Regional Managers had been hired and efforts were under way to engage other supporting staff.
In 2007, total registration for the Scheme grew from 8.6 to 11.2, representing 55 per cent of the population with the Brong Ahafo Region leading with 72 per cent coverage and the Greater Accra Region
the least, at 24 per cent.