This was announced by the Minister of Health, Major (rtd.) Courage Quashigah in a speech read by Dr Gladys Ashitey, Deputy Minister of Health, at the launch of the Fifth Africa Malaria Day celebration at Mpreaso in the Kwahu South District on Monday.
He said the drugs would be made available at all health facilities in the country and urged all to explore local production of the drug as well as local herbs used for the treatment of malaria. Major Quashigah explained that the new drug was being adopted because the malaria parasites had developed resistance to chloroquine. He said the use of insecticides-treated mosquito net had proved to be one of the most effective, efficient and cost-effective tools in preventing malaria and the government of Ghana had proved its commitment to the control of malaria by reducing tax on the nets.
Major Quashigah promised that he would ensure that the mosquito nets were produced locally to ensure increased access.
He said the launch of the Insecticides-Treated Nets (ITN) Voucher Scheme in the Volta Region last year had proved very successful and because of that the scheme was being scaled up to the Eastern and Brong Ahafo Regions.
The National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) Manager, Dr Constance Bart-Plange, explained that the programme had been speaking of ITNS and not the environment because in the spirit of partnership, the Local Government administrations were expected to tackle the aspects on the environment in the malaria control programmes.
She said since the year 2000 when African Heads of State signed the Abuja Declaration on the fight against malaria, Ghana had made some strides in her efforts at malaria control.
Dr Bart-Plange said research had proved that by 2004, children and pregnant women who slept in treated nets increased from 3.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively in 2003 to 15 per cent. She said pregnant women receiving correct malaria prevention drugs in 20 Districts increased from 6.7 per cent in 2002 to 33 per cent, while malaria cases recorded in the country dropped from 3,500,000 in 2003 to 3,200,000 in 2004.
The Deputy Eastern Regional Minister, Ms Susana Mensah, called for collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors in the fight against malaria.
She urged all who had not yet registered with the Mutual Health Insurance Schemes to do so because it would help in preventing malaria-related deaths since it would enable all persons, including the vulnerable and the disabled to receive treatment without necessarily making on-the-spot payment.
In a speech read on his behalf, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director, Dr Luis G. Sambo, said African countries lost about 12 billion US dollars annually through malaria-related absenteeism among school children and worker productivity.
He observed that though many African countries might not achieve the targets set at Abuja by the end of 2005, but much had been done and called on African countries to celebrate their success and rejoice over the cases of ill- health and deaths that they had been able to avert through their combined efforts.
The UNICEF Country Representative, Ms Dorothy Rozga, said more resources and commitment would be required of Government and its partners to scale up interventions in order to reach the set target of 60 per cent coverage by the end of 2005.
The Director, USAID Mission to Ghana, Ms Sharon Cromer, said her office was actively involved in the development and dissemination of new Artemisinin-based combination therapy protocols and guidelines for use by health care providers.
She said her office was also developing a communication strategy for malaria that would include messages and prototypes materials on malaria, focusing on drug adherence and prevention.