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28.09.2004 General News

Ghana to start using new drugs for Malaria treatment

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Accra, Sept. 28, GNA - Ghana intends switching to Artesunate-Amodiaquine combination therapy next year as the first line treatment for uncomplicated malaria, Minister of Health, Dr Kwaku Afriyie said on Tuesday.

"Many African countries including Ghana, are saddled with increasing resistance to the first line anti malaria drugs and are switching to Artemisinin based combination therapies", he said.

Dr Afriyie, who was addressing the sixth "Roll Back Malaria" (RBM) Global Partnership Board meeting in Accra, said the challenge now was to ensure the constant availability of the drugs at affordable price to those who needed them.

The Board meeting which is the second to be held in Africa and the first in Ghana is to re-evaluate strategies and to share experiences. African Heads of State and Governments including Ghana and the International Community pledged in Abuja in 2000 to control malaria under the WHO-RBM initiative by 2005.

The Abuja declaration sought the reduction of risk of Malaria to at least 60 per cent of people at risk, especially young children and pregnant women, achieve a target of 60 per cent of people who sleep under insecticides treated nets, and the same percentage of those suffering from malaria to have access to effective and affordable treatment within 24 hours.

It also targeted that 60 per cent of pregnant women at risk from malaria should have access to effective treatment.

Malaria affects between 300 and 350 million people with over one million deaths each year in Africa. Children under five years are mostly affected, accounting for nearly 3,000 deaths every day.

The disease cost Africa between 10 billion dollars and 12 billion dollars every year in loss of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Dr Afriyie noted that in Ghana about 22 per cent of death in children under five and 44 per cent of all Out Patient Department attendance.

He said efforts have been made at controlling the disease using proven efficacious intervention including the introduction of the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) but was quick to add that they were too costly and not affordable to the majority of the people.

Effort should, therefore, be made to break all the barriers militating against the use of the treated nets by reducing the price and making it affordable to all, Dr Afriyie said, and reminded the participants that Abuja 2005 was just around the corner and there was the need for renewed vigour in tackling the malaria menace.

"We in Africa have been saddled with many challenges as far as malaria control is concerned. Prominent among them being the availability and affordability of essential commodities for the prevention and management of malaria," Dr George Amofa, Chairman, Roll Back Malaria Global Partnership Board, said.

He said the meeting would, therefore, continue with the ongoing discussions to develop concrete plans and strategies to address most of the challenges.

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