By Raymond Baguma
The Ministry of Health has so far distributed 12 million long-lasting insecticide treated nets out of the 21 million expected to be distributed countrywide to reduce on the prevalence of malaria.
Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng, the director general of health services said that the mosquito nets have so far been distributed in 71 districts of the country and the ministry is left with 43 more districts under the programme including Kampala and Wakiso.”
“By the end of June, we shall have concluded the distribution of mosquito nets,” said Dr. Acheng Thursday during a breakfast meeting with selected Members of Parliament under the parliamentary forum on malaria. Also present were ministry of health officials and others from the NGO Malaria Consortium which is involved in the fight against malaria.
The meeting was organised as part of events to mark this year’s World Health Day and the World Malaria Day. Events to mark the two days were combined and took place Friday in Mubende district.
The theme for this year is: “Vector-borne diseases: Small bite, big threat. Sleep under a treated mosquito net.”
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga however noted that the mosquito net distribution programme may be unsustainable in the long run. She advised the ministry of health to benchmark countries such as Cuba to find out how the country managed to eradicate malaria.
She said that every 3 years, the distribution exercise for long-lasting mosquito nets will be a recurrent expenditure that will cost the country a lot of money that can otherwise be used in other programmes.
“If the mosquito net is valued at US$1, it means that US$21 million will be a recurrent expenditure and with an increasing population. I think the money would be used in better ways than just buying mosquito nets which have to be replaced every three years. Sometimes they are used for fishing and wedding dresses. We can use the money for campaigns to eradicate malaria and other services needed in the country,” said Kadaga.
Dr. Acheng said the ministry has set a target to expand the Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) programme from the current 10 districts, to 50 districts in the next three years. She however said that IRS on its own cannot work and needs to be implemented in combination with other mosquito eradication methods.
According to Dr. Albert Okwi, the malaria programme manager in the Ministry of Health, malaria is endemic to 95 percent of the country. While 5 percent of the country comprising of highlands, is malaria epidemic-prone.
Malaria accounts for 15-20 percent of in-patient admissions, and 30-50 percent of out-patient attendance and 9-14 percent of all in-patient deaths in the country’s health facilities. Also, close to 50,000 people die every year due to malaria and these include majority pregnant women and children below five years.