By Jeff Andrew Lule
KAMPALA - In a bid to improve the treatment of malaria in Uganda, the government has launched the UNITAID private sector Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test kits (MRDT).
The three-year pilot project which was launched in Wakiso district is implemented by the Malaria Consortium together with the National Drug Authority, National Malaria Control Programme supported by World Health Organisation and FIND.
The $6.2m (about sh15bn) project will be rolled out to other seven districts in mid-westen region including; Kibaale, Masindi, Kiboga, Kyankwazi, Hoima and Buliisa.
Sarah Opendi, the state minister for Primary Health Care, said the ministry together with other partners, have already trained health workers in public health facilities in the use of MRDT and have introduced the tools in all health facilities.
MRDT tools enable health workers at all levels to 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.
“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 parasites resistant to the malaria medicines,” she said.
The minister pointed out that mistreatment of potentially life-threatening non-malaria febrile illnesses can also lead to death.
The new technology, she said, 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.
Her ministry has set out to continue with public awareness to promote testing before treatment.
Malaria is a leading killer disease
The Malaria Control Programme Manager in the ministry of health, Dr. Alfred Peter Okwir emphasized that wrong drug prescription always leads to complications and sometimes 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 related deaths.
Since the introduction of RDTs in public health facilities, and giving out of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, the number of malaria cases and deaths have reduced, he revealed, adding that up to 22 million nets have been given out countrywide, accord
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 the private sector.
Alemu said the WHO is committed to supporting the project through giving technical support.
The country director of 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 with whom we have negotiated to reduce the price of the kits below the cost of the anti-malarials. Each kit will cost between sh2000 and sh2500.”
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 the right drugs to patients after ascertaining the problem.
Agnes Nafula, a teacher at Lweza Primary School, hopes “for the best” with the new technology.