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'President and MPs, bring leadership to malaria fight'

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Added 25th April 2018 09:45 AM

Malaria elimination is an important step on the path to achieving a middle income economy in Uganda.

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Malaria elimination is an important step on the path to achieving a middle income economy in Uganda.

OPINION

By Chrispus Mayora

In Uganda, 16 million cases are reported, and over 6,000 deaths recorded every year due to malaria, yet this is preventable. This translates into 16 deaths every single day.

Uganda is the 9th highest malaria burden country in the world. It is estimated that every year, malaria contributes up to US$200 million in lost income to the Ugandan economy. When individuals contract malaria, they are absent from work, family members lose time nursing their loved ones including when they are admitted at hospital, add hospital costs, transport to hospital, among others.

Sometimes, malaria episodes have progressed into acute conditions and in some cases resulted into deaths, orphans, and breakdown in social and family support systems.

Malaria directly and or indirectly impacts on Uganda’s economy, and scuttles government effort towards household poverty reduction, and wealth creation. Thus, malaria control alone, has significant benefits to the economy.

There are studies that have demonstrated that just a 10% decrease in malaria prevalence, would lead to a 0.3% growth in annual gross domestic product (GDP). While the burden of malaria to the economy is in fact higher than HIV/AIDS, malaria has not received as much attention as HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

The fight against malaria has been one of the longest, yet its success has been somewhat elusive compared to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Using experiences from the successes so far recorded in the HIV/AIDS fight, there are two critical issues that are important for the malaria fight – the need for leadership and championship – and most likely these two have been the missing links in the fight against Malaria in Uganda.

You may recall how President Yoweri Museveni, took it upon himself to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS. At every platform, the President delivered a clear message of prevention against HIV/AIDS.

In fact the President’s message on HIV/AIDS prevention has been consistent and emphatic for the last 20 years. President Museveni stressed this similar message at the 2018 Women’s day, on March 8, 2018, in Mityana District. This is what it means to be a champion.

The results from this leadership and championship in the HIV/AIDS campaign, have been so visible, and in fact Uganda has won international accolades for a successful model in fighting HIV/AIDS.

The Malaria Control Program (MCP) of the Ministry of Health, together with implementing partners, have recorded tremendous success in the area of mosquito net distribution – with more than 90% coverage of mosquito nets, behavioral change communication, and some limited progress on Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS). 

Yet, malaria incidence and prevalence is still high in Uganda. We need to generate additional momentum for malaria fight by harnessing experiences from HIV/AIDS fight, and one important experience to learn from is the need to leadership and championship for the malaria campaign. 

Recognizing this missing link, the President of Uganda, Members of Parliament, and the district leaders have joined the fight against Malaria.

On April 5, 2018, the President, MPs, local government leaders, and implementing partners, made commitments at Parliament, during the launch of the Mass Action Against Malaria (MAAM) strategy, and the inauguration of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Malaria (UPFM). Under the UPFM, all MPs pledged to work towards malaria-free constituencies, as one of their core responsibilities.

Every MP derives their parliamentary power from a constituency, and so it is in their best interest that every electorate is malaria-free as a cornerstone for the success of leaders.

The UPFM core theme is: “a malaria-free constituency is my responsibility”.

Members of Parliament have unlimited platforms within their constituencies, enjoy great respect, and they are usually listened to and taken seriously. Therefore, having the President and MPs on board in the malaria fight is very critical.

Imagine if every MP on a single weekend passed a malaria prevention message in a local church, and how much audience that would be. The President, MPs, and district leaders have networks up to community level that can be used as channels to relay the message of tackling the malaria challenge.

The Presidency and Parliament, are also institutions that are central in resource allocation. With the President’s commitment on addressing the malaria challenge in Uganda, he is bringing on board accumulated experience in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which will be essential in achieving Uganda malaria reduction targets.

Malaria elimination is an important step on the path to achieving a middle income economy in Uganda.

Chrispus Mayora is a Lecturer & Health Economist with SPEED – Makerere University School of Public Health

 

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