By Amadou Jadama
The Gambia government will distribute at least 11 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLIN) across the length and breadth of the country to help control the spread of malaria, the health minister said Sunday.
Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh made the disclosure at the launch of a joint mass campaign initiative on malaria. The initiative is between The Gambia and neighbours Senegal. Events marking the launch of the programme was staged at the Kerr Ayibu border post in Farafenni.
The campaign was initiated by Presidents Adama Barrow and Macky Sall to totally eliminate malaria in both countries. The event also coincided with celebrations marking World Malaria Day.
The Gambia has been “extremely successful” in reducing the burden of malaria, thanks to the scale-up of control interventions such as long-lasting insecticidal bed nets.
Over just two decades (1990-2008), annual under-5 mortality rates declined more than 70% – from 159 down to 45 per 1000 live births – resulting in attainment of Millennium Development Goal 4 seven years in advance of the target year of 2015.
“Over the next three months over 11 million long lasting insecticide nets will be distributed at the community level, free of charge to the population of our two countries,” minister Samateh said. “Not only is this a significant milestone for our two great countries, it is the first known, synchronised national scale LLIN campaign carried out across two sides of an international border.”
According to him, in 2018, the ministries of health of Senegal and The Gambia signed a convention to foster collaboration towards the elimination of malaria across both countries.
“We have also agreed to cooperate and coordinate with other technical and financial partners to develop evidence-based cross border control strategies and to continuously monitor and evaluate the performance of the Sene-Gambia malaria initiative, including resource mobilisation to sustain this initiative from our respective governments as well as external donor partners,” he explained.
He also said the launch of the programme demonstrates the two countries’ commitment to making malaria, which has killed millions of people across Africa, a thing of the past.
Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children every day, according to reports, and over one million people die from it each year, mostly children under five years of age, with 90 per cent of cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Reports say an estimated 300-600 million people suffer from malaria each year.
“As we launch this joint campaign, we must remember that the malaria vectors and parasites recognise no borders,” said Samateh. “Therefore, it is only through joint and collaborative efforts that we can eliminate malaria.”
He went on to say that investing in malaria control is about saving lives. “Continued investment in malaria control now will propel malaria endemic countries towards near-zero death by 2030 and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to improving child survival and maternal health.”
Abdoulie Joof Sarr, Senegalese minister of health, said environmental sanitation was still a challenge in most communities, with dirty drainages and stagnant water rampant.
“We continue to build houses without any consideration for accessibility and fresh air circulation,” he rued.
Ebrima KS Dampha, north bank governor, thanked the initiators for choosing his region for the launch of the programme. He also acknowledged some of the progresses made in the fight against malaria in The Gambia.