Ghana's Health Minister Hon Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey has called for a shake-up in the country's malaria control policy. Speaking to delegates at the Commemoration of World Malaria Day at the Accra International Conference Centre on 25 April, the Minister called for the creation of a 'Malaria Elimination Project' by July 2009 and described existing chain phases for malaria eradication as "too long".
His comments fly in the face of the UN-backed malaria project 'Roll Back Malaria (RBM) and it Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP), which presently put Ghana in the control stage of the malaria eradication chain. RBM believes that, in the control stage 'first scaling up appropriate interventions for all populations at risk and then sustaining control over time, malaria will cease to be a major source of deaths world-wide,' principally through the distribution of nets.
His recommendations have been welcomed by Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA), a development NGO based in Ghana, which recently launched its KICK MALARIA OUT (KMO) elimination project. The project is set to raise the public's awareness of simple malaria prevention methods across six West African countries including Ghana and aims to de-bunk the myth that using nets alone can achieve a significant drop in malaria cases.
VPWA's Executive Director Hayford Siaw, who has long campaigned for the implementation of aerial insecticide dispensing system, indoor residual spraying and public education, has applauded the Minister for including this three-pronged approach to fighting the disease. Mr Siaw also urged Ghana to learn from the successes of countries in North America, North Africa and the Middle East, which had successfully eliminated malaria by using these three methods.
"If resources that would be going into the purchase of nets are channelled into tackling the disease on these fronts, Ghana should be able to declare itself as malaria-free zone within three years,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Siaw also challenged the notion that consistent use of nets can lead to Ghana achieving a 0% malaria cases.
"'In every project proposal, sustainability to achieve real results both in the short-term and long-term is very crucial and this is why we need to adopt strategies that encompass the ability of a nation to achieve both short-term and long-term objectives.
"It is in this vein that, our organization is calling on governments all over the continent of Africa to channel the taxpayers' money that has been spent on nets to be re-directed into adopting a three-phase approach to eliminating and eradicating malaria from the continent," he said.
According to Dr Constance Bart-Plange, Head of Malaria Control Programme of Ghana, who gave a presentation at the World Malaria Day Celebration, '1.3% of Ghana's GPD is spent on malaria annually'.
Mr Siaw described this figure as "staggering" for a country that wants to achieve Middle Income Status by 2015. He said that in spite of the massive spending by donor agencies and government of Ghana, a WHO report on malaria in Ghana states: 'There was no evidence of a reduction in malaria cases between 2001-2007, and reported deaths have increased in 2007'.
The same report records that a sum close to $100 million from government, the Global Fund, the World Bank and bilateral donors, was spent on malaria control in Ghana alone between 2006-2007.
Mr Siaw is challenging the Ghanaian Government to change the name of the National Malaria Control Programme to the 'National Malaria Eradication Programme' 'in a belief that this will help attract more sponsorship from corporate Ghana to take the issue more seriously. Malaria affects the majority of the workforce in Ghana and causes a negative output, which has an adverse effect on corporate Ghana.
Mr Kwaku Appau, Board Chairman of VPWA, said: "The question Ghanaians and the donor communities should be asking themselves is why are there all these investments into malaria control and yet the death rate continues to rise? It is simple; expenditure is going into areas that do not stop the malaria vector from breeding so there is a continuous multiplication."
The KICK OUT MALARIA project will run for four weeks between August to September 2009. A team of local and international volunteers will travel across Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Cote D'Ivoire raising awareness of some of the simple activities people can do in their home environment to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds.
by Kirsty Osei-Bempong – PR/Communications for VPWA
Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa, Accra-Ghana