Prof Osman Sankoh speaking at the launch of the project
INDEPTH Network, a health and demographic surveillance systems, has collaborated with the Ghana Heath Service (GHS) to undertake a malaria project, aimed at reducing malaria burden among children under 10 years and pregnant women in rural communities.
The three-year initiative, which will last till December 2019, is also aimed at strengthening quality of malaria care and surveillance in the communities through various health control packages.
The packages include improved access to quality malaria care at the community, improved knowledge among malaria care providers and an enhanced community demand for quality malaria data and care for decision making.
The Acting Director of Kintampo Health Research Centre, Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, one of the project leads, gave the rationale for the extension of the age bracket.
He said very often, children older than five years are taken out of malaria projects although they are equally affected by the parasite.
“Children with fever were unable to get to a facility to be properly tested for malaria because of distance and unavailability of the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) or medication,” Dr Asante stated.
He further mentioned that the project would help improve knowledge of malaria care providers, including community health officers (MCPS) or nurses, licensed chemical sellers and community-based workers at the community level to test and treat malaria.
Dr Asante continued that there would be training and re-orientation on the MCPs on malaria symptoms, mRDT use, treatment, tracking patient outcome, referral of severe malaria cases, febrile illnesses, basic record keeping, quality of care, and continuous supply of RDTs.
The Executive Director of INDEPTH Network, Prof Osman Sankoh, disclosed that the project was being sponsored by the UK-based Comic Relief and a pharmaceutical company under an £800,000 fund to be implemented in selected districts within the Upper East, Brong-Ahafo and the Greater Accra Regions, where malaria cases are rampant.
He opined that the project is core to the National Malaria Control Programme’s strategy as the communities would have access to treatment for uncomplicated malaria.
Prof Sankoh expressed the hope that community members would embrace the project and own it to ensure sustainability.
Dr Kesiah Malm, Acting Director of NMCP, and Dr Linda Van-Otoo, the Greater Accra Regional Director of Health, both lauded the project, but advised that it should be linked with existing national programmes, including the CHPS compound system, to ensure sustainability and community ownership.
Malaria has been a major cause of poverty and low productivity, accounting for about 32.5 percent of all out-patient department (OPDs) attendance.
It is expected that the level of malaria diagnosis using RDT would increase from the current eight percent to 50 percent among the primary beneficiaries at the community level.
Other project partners include research teams from the Kintampo Health Research Centre, Dodowa Health Research Centre and Navrongo Health Research Centre, who were at the at the launch.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri