Eritrea officially entered the elimination phase of the global malaria control program in the year 2018 and is determined to achieve eradication of the parasitical disease in the country by the year 2030.
The endeavours for the attainment of this long-awaited success include the submission of any and every feverish patient to a malaria test, the conduct of individual tests for malaria positive patients, contact tracing for malaria positive patients as well as GPS mapping of their residential or contact places.
As the World Health Organization’s Director General notes malaria is a life-threatening disease costing a child’s life every two minutes and causing a disease burden exceeding 200 million every year worldwide. However, Eritrea and the world as a whole have been making big strides against malaria for the past two decades. There have been several global initiatives to control malaria, such as the Roll-back Malaria Partnership (RBM) and the Abuja declaration in which Eritrea has taken part and surpassed most of the targets ahead of the predetermined time. Thus, in order to highlight these global efforts and celebrate the gains made, 25th of April has been recognized as the “World Malaria Day”.
World Malaria Day was celebrated in Eritrea this year under the theme “Zero malaria starts with me”. At a meeting held at Serejka on Thursday, 25th April, to mark the day, Mr. Meles Ghebreyesus, the head of the Malaria unit in Maekel region, presented the details of the country’s situation in regard to the disease.
According to the report by the malaria unit, Maekel Region, which was previously not known to be endemic for malaria, suffered from epidemics of the disease in 1998, with enormous impact on the economic and social lives of the people. Nevertheless, Zoba Maekel is winning the war against malaria. Malaria incidence rate went down from 4.08% in 2016 to 2.8% in 2017 to 0.4% in 2018. As a matter of fact, Eritrea has been selected to be one of the 35 countries worldwide (20 of them in Africa) that is likely to eliminate malaria by 2030. Efforts that are underway and the gains that are being attained by the Ministry of Health and stakeholders show that the country is on the right track towards its goal.
As highlighted on Thursday’s meeting, four subzones in Maekel region are planning to eliminate malaria, namely subzones Serejka, Berik, Galanefhi and North-western Asmara. Around 6,596 insecticide treated bed nets were given out to pregnant women at the time of their pregnancy tests from 2016 to 2018 and 40,152 insecticide treated bed nets were distributed in 2017 and many more activities are underway to achieve the above stated objectives.
At the meeting, Mr. Meles said: “I want to remind you that the objective we set to accomplish back in 2016 is ‘to go from malaria pre-elimination stage to zero malaria with the coordinated assistance of our people and stakeholders”, to an audience mostly made up of trained community health agents and a few Ministry officials. Community health agents are members of the community that are trained to focus on the following: diagnosis and appropriate treatment of fever cases within the community, coordination of environmental activities, provision of health education on bed net use, taking care of environmental management, and giving early treatment to the community. The training and deployment of Community health agents has so far proven to be an effective and promising strategy in the Malaria Control Program. Money awards have been given to the three most hard-working agents at the end of the meeting to encourage participants to work harder and strive for better results. The community health agents in first, second and third place have been given 1000 nakfa, 900 nakfa and 800 nakfa respectively.
The meeting ended with Zoba Maekel malaria unit’s call to uphold the list of four prevention and control methods that all of us must follow and work on in harmony to eradicate this deadly disease once and for all. The list illustrates the importance of seeking medical aid as soon as any malarial signs and symptoms are observed, the need to take the prescribed drugs without interruption, the importance of using insecticide-treated bed nets, following the right guidelines and observing environmental cleanliness to reduce the vector population.
Eritrea has made undeniable progress but there is still a long way to go to reach the endpoint: A Malaria Free Eritrea. To achieve this noble goal it is imperative to note that changing the country or the world starts with each of us as this year’s theme “Zero malaria starts with me” emphasizes. Thus, we must all assume responsibility and work hand in hand to ensure that no one suffers or dies from this preventable and treatable disease.