Ghana Sustains Gains In Malaria Prevention As Prevalence Declines

The 2019 Ghana Malaria Indicator Survey (GMIS), released in Accra on Tuesday, shows that malaria prevalence among children has declined over time, but other areas for improvement remain in prevention.

The new document highlighted a continuous reduction in malaria prevalence among children aged between six and 59 months, where the incidence according to microscopy data among children of this age group, declined from 27 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2019.

However, malaria prevalence was more than three times higher among rural children (20 per cent) than the six per cent among urban children, and further by region, the incidence ranged from a low of two per cent in Greater Accra to a high of 27 per cent in the Western region.

The 2019 GMIS, which is the second Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) implemented in Ghana, after the previous data was executed in 2016, was released in a virtual dissemination webinar organised by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).

Dr Samuel Kobina Annim, Government Statistician, commended the team of researchers for the production, and also thanked the funding partners; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and the Government of Ghana.

The ICF provided technical assistance through the DHS Programme, which is a USAID-funded project offering support and technical assistance in the implementation of population and health surveys worldwide, he said.

Mr Peter Takyi Peprah, Head, Field Operation and Logistics Section, GSS, said the results of the 2019 Ghana MIS would be used by the Government of Ghana and the Ministry of Health to inform priorities and strategies for malaria prevention and its eventual elimination.

Presenting brief highlights of the document, he said the studies were conducted between September and November 2019 at the peak of the malaria season, with all children aged six-59 months living in selected households being eligible for anaemia and malaria testing.

He said apart from the decline in prevalence recorded among the sample group of children, and the rural-urban variations, the study also revealed that generally, four per cent of children in Ghana had low haemoglobin levels, saying the incidence had nonetheless decreased by half since 2014, from eight per cent to the current levels.

Again, prior gains in household ownership and use of Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITNs) had been sustained since the 2016 GMIS, adding that “three in four Ghanaian households own at least one ITN, and half of households have at least one ITN for every two people who stayed in the household the night before the survey.

“Over half (54 per cent) of children under five and 49 per cent of pregnant women aged 15-49 slept under an ITN the night before the survey. ITN use among children under five and pregnant women has stagnated since 2016,” he said.

Mr Peprah said among women aged 15-49 who had heard of malaria, 59 per cent had seen or heard a malaria message in the six months before the survey, and one in three of them had heard about the malaria vaccine, while nine in 10 said they would allow their child to be vaccinated against the disease.

He said the 2019 GMIS provided up-to-date estimates of basic demographic and health indicators for malaria at the national level, for urban and rural areas, and for each of the 10 former administrative regions, but although Ghana in the same year, created six new regions; however, the new administrative boundaries were not available during survey design of the 2019 GMIS.

He said the 2019 GMIS, which was implemented by the GSS in close collaboration with the Ghana NMCP and the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), interviewed a total of 5,181 women aged between15 and 49, representing a response rate of 99 per cent.

Ms Stephanie Sullivan, the US Ambassador, in her submission, underscored the importance of such data in informing national decisions and policies.

She said Malaria posed a major health problem, especially for developing countries, as it drove health budgets high, decreased productivity and reduced school attendance among children.

The US Ambassador called for enhanced efforts to achieve the ‘Zero Tolerance’ for malaria death target by 2030, calling for the continuous encouragement of women and children to sleep under ITNs.

Ghanaians should. adopt responsible behaviours, as negative attitudes could erode progress made, especially in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Keiziah Malm, Programme Manager, NMCP, attributed the achievements made in malaria prevention, to a combination of interventions which included the use of ITN, Indoor Residual Spraying and Intermittent Preventive Therapy (IPT) for pregnant women.