The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), undoubtedly, has pushed concerns with other equally-dangerous diseases to the background. In other words, COVID-19 attracts more attention, probably because it is a pandemic.
What that means is that if we are not careful, certain dangerous dideasesendemic only in certain places can be given free space to devastate or even take lives.
One of such diseases is malaria, which is described as a tropical disease because it is indigenous or endemic in the tropical areas of the world.
Other examples of tropical diseases include cholera, Chagas disease, yellow fever, and dengue fever.
Malaria is an infectious disease caused by parasites that invade red blood cells. The parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes, as thevectors, to humans through their bites.
The UN classifies certain tropical diseases found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and these are especially common in tropical areas where people do not have access to clean water or safe ways to dispose of human waste.
Some of these NTDs are Buruli ulcer, Chagas Disease, cysticercosis, Dengue fever, Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease, echinococcosis, Human African Trypanosomiasis (African Sleeping sickness), Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease), onchocerciasis, rabies and schistosomiasis.
Fortunately, malaria currently is not one of these, but if efforts with regard to its prevention and cure wane, it would not be long and it can be an NTD.
Therefore, the Ghanaian Times finds it commendable the call by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), a Pan-African advocacy group of journalists and scientists, on governments of malaria-endemic countries to invest in the fight against malaria to fill the funding gap.
According to the group, unless countries find innovative ways to mobilize adequate resources to bridge the funding gap, malaria resurgence would likely take more lives in Africa.
The groupmade the call in Accra yesterday on the occasion of this year’s World Malaria Day, which was celebrated on the theme « Zero Malaria Starts with Me/ Draw the Line Against Malaria ».
Itclaims that there are countries that have the potential to eliminate the malaria by 2025 and that « Zero Malaria Must Start with the Presidents.
It is sad to note that a disease that can be eliminated was globally allowed to kill some 409 000 people in 2019 compared to 411 000 in 2018 with Africa shouldering more than 90 per cent of the overall disease burden.
The group has every reason to be concerned with malaria prevention and treatment funding as only US $3 billion was, in 2019, realisedout of a global target of $5.6 billion.
What is scary is that the 2020 World Malaria Report by the WHO says a 10-percent disruption in access to effective antimalarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19,000 additional deaths in the region.
Luckily, the strategies for prevention and treatment of malaria and other tropical diseases are available.Improving living conditions and building waste sanitation facilities, planned nutritional support to those who live in high-risk areas, medications, and community-wide vaccination programs can help.
Therefore the Ghanaian Times joins the journalists and the scientists in their call for global funding of malaria prevention and treatment in the hope that one day malaria can be classified among eliminated diseases.