Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Africa continues to bear the highest burden of malaria according to the latest WHO World Malaria Report 2022. Worldwide, in 2021, the region of the African continent considered by the international organization represented 95% of all cases. Malaria continues to be a disease that most severely affects children under five years of age.s, comprising this age group 80% of deaths from malaria. In the case of Cameroon, the country in which Fundación Recover works to control the disease, it is highly endemic, which means that “the more than 27 million Cameroonians are regularly exposed to the disease”, says Emilie Ngono, representative of the foundation in Cameroon. In 2022, the country registered more than three million cases of malaria and almost 4,000 deaths, the majority among children under five years of age and pregnant women. However, despite the hopeless data, according to the latest WHO report, in 2021 Cameroon has become one of the 15 countries that have achieved reduce the incidence of malaria cases and the proportion of deaths from 18% in 2019 to 13.5% today, data that encourages all Recover volunteers to continue working. “The use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), the involvement of community health workers, and the improvement in the quality of diagnosis and treatment are some of the factors that have managed to achieve control of the disease,” says Ngono. In joint work with local authorities and following the recommendations of the national strategy implemented in the country, Fundación Recover works on the prevention and treatment of the disease through awareness campaigns both in schools as in communities. In addition, it contemplates the distribution of mosquito nets treated with insecticides (ITN) among the families that participate in the campaign. During the year 2023, Recover seeks to reach 1,360 boys and girls through schools, as well as families, with both local teachers and the mothers of minors becoming awareness agents. To this end, the campaign proposes training a group of “healthy mothers” to be the promoters of preventive measures. After the awareness phase, and through the health centers that Recover supports, testing and medical treatment and/or hospitalization are planned if necessary.

Awareness, the great challenge in the fight against malaria

Although the population is aware of the existence of the disease and has some information about it, it is still necessary to continue raising awareness about the symptoms of the disease. “Many people self-medicate and malaria has symptoms similar to other diseases, such as typhoid fever, so if a person does not go to the hospital for a proper diagnosis, they may find themselves taking a false treatment”, explains Emilie Ngono and continues, “here in Cameroon many people still think that mangoes, for example, are contagious malaria. We still have to put a lot of emphasis on the prevention workespecially with the intensification of the hygiene and sanitation campaigns in the communities”. In this sense, Fundación Recover works to raise awareness and inform the population so that they can take the necessary measures against the disease. But it does not only depend on the population. The treated mosquito nets with insecticide (ITN) they are the main vector control tool used in most countries where malaria is endemic. However, according to the WHO alert, although in 2021 the distribution of impregnated mosquito nets was generally good (75% were distributed), eight countries (Benin, Eritrea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Uganda and Vanuatu) distributed less than 60%, and seven countries (Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Haiti, India, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone) did not distribute any ITNs. Therefore, it is important that the authorities continue to make the effort to eradicate this disease with all the prevention systems available to them.

The arrival of the vaccine a little closer

Preventive treatments such as the vaccine are necessary to continue in the fight against malaria. Dr. Mbiam, a doctor at the St. Raphaëlle Marie medical center in Cameroon, says that “vaccination is especially important for vulnerable people like children from 0 to 5 years and pregnant women and even people from Europe and other places where malaria is rare. Vaccination will reduce deaths and other malaria-related complications such as miscarriage.”
The malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 it was recommended by the WHO to prevent the disease in children living in regions with moderate or high transmission. In 2021, approximately 364,000 children were reached with at least one dose of the vaccine through pilot introductions in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. The results of the pilots have confirmed that the vaccine it is safe and reduces the incidence in pediatric populations, hospitalizations and deaths. Some countries will begin to introduce this preventive treatment in 2023, such as Ghana, which has become the first country in the world to approve the use of a malaria vaccine.

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