By Jeff Andrew Lule
Government has launched the UNITAID private sector Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test kits (MRDT)to help in the proper treatment of the disease.
The three-year pilot project which was launched at Wakiso district is implemented by Malaria Consortium together with the National Drug Authority, National Malaria Control Programme supported by World Health Organisation and FIND.
The project costing $6.2m (about sh15bn) will be rolled out to other seven districts in mid-western region including; Kibaale, Masindi, Kiboga, Kyankwazi, Hoima and Buliisa.
The state minister for Primary Health Care, Sarah Opendi said the ministry together with other partners have already trained health workers in public health facilities in the use of MRDT and introduced the tools in all health facilities.
RDT tools can enable health workers at all levels diagnose patients with suspected malaria cases in just 15 minutes.
Opendi said the new national policy calls for mandatory testing of all suspected malaria cases before treatment.
(L-R) The DHO of Kabale district Dan Kyamanywa; DHO of Wakiso district Emmanuel Mukisa; the National Manager of Malaria Programme in the Ministry of Health, Alfred Okwi and Wakiso district Chairperson, Matia Lwanga at the launch of the Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits in Wakiso district. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
“We realized there are many other common diseases which present with signs and symptoms similar to malaria. Treatment without testing leads to wastage of medicines, misuse and increases the risk of creating parasite resistance to malaria medicines,” she noted.
Opendi said mistreatment of potentially life-threatening non-malaria febrile illnesses can also lead to death. She said the new technology is efficient and easy to use.
“Though emphasis was initially in public health facilities, over 50% Ugandans seek medical care and treatment in the private sector, of which many lack laboratory facilities and we think this is going to help,” she added.
She said the ministry is going to continue with public awareness to promote testing before treatment.
The Malaria Control Programme Manager ministry of health, Dr Alfred Peter Okwir stressed that wrong drug prescription always leads to complications and death.
“This must stop. That is why our people get complications and die at times,” he said.
He said Uganda records 16 milion cases of malaria annually, and 50,000 deaths. Okwir, however, noted that since the introduction of RDTs in public health facilities, and giving out mosquito nets, the number of malaria cases and deaths has reduced.
He said 22 million nets have been given out countrywide.
Dr W. Alemu, a representative of WHO, noted that Uganda is ranked among the six countries in Africa with the highest burden of malaria, with most cases reported from the public sector, yet 60% of the people seek medication from private sector.
Alemu said the WHO is committed to support the project through giving technical support.
Country director, Malaria Consortium, Dr. Godfrey Magumba said they have already trained 150 health workers from 150 clinics on the use of the kits.
“We have already contracted two manufactures; Standard, and Premier medical diagnostics, whom we have negotiated to reduce the price of the kits below the cost of the anti-malarial drugs. Each kit will cost between sh2000 and sh2500,” he noted.
Wakiso district health officer Dr. Emmanuel Mukisa said since they started using RDTs, stock-outs have reduced at various health facilities.
Patrick Okello, a resident of Kireka B, said MRDT technology will help in giving right drugs to patients after ascertaining the problem.
Agnes Nafula, a teacher at Lweza Primary School, said many people have been taking wrong drugs due to lack of testing equipment in different facilities. “But with MRDT we hope for the best.”