Organised by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the event which is observed worldwide as declared by the UN was held under the theme: ‘Invest in future. Defeat Malaria’.
Speaking at the occasion, the UN rep in Gambia, Dr Sharmiza Jah of World Health Organization, Banjul Office said: “We will continue to provide support to malaria prevention and control in The Gambia. We will continue to work with the ministry of health and partners to mainstream malaria control in health and development policies and plans, carry out advocacy for increased mobilisation of domestic and external funding, and will provide guidance regarding appropriate malaria control policies and interventions including empowering communities in malaria control.”
Dr Jah said goal of the country’s seven year strategic plan, drafted by the National Malaria Control Programme, is to provide the framework for the reduction of the malaria burden by 50% by 2015.
She said as a result of the scale up to malaria prevention and control interventions, the country has been able to record a remarkable reduction in malaria morbidity and mortality.
However, she warned that “We can’t afford to fail. There is a need to further scale up and intensify these interventions to sustain gains and further push ahead towards achieving a near zero preventable malaria deaths in The Gambia.”
Also speaking, the permanent secretary, Dr Macky Taal, deputising the health minister said: “In The Gambia, malaria is the probable cause of 4% of infant deaths and 25% of death in children between 1 to 4 years.”
PS Taal noted that Malaria is not just a disease commonly associated with poverty but also a cause of poverty and a major hindrance to economic development.
He added: “Thanks to the concerted global action and investment, we are turning the tide against malaria saving millions of lives. The government under President Jammeh has witnessed significant increase in access to malaria control and intervention. These figures indicate that the Gambia for the past six years had registered reduction in infant mortality by 54% and for under-five mortality by 45%. Malaria incidence has reduced by 85.5%, admission due to malaria dropped by 74% and malaria attributed deaths dropped by 90%.”
Dr Taal promised that The Gambia would continue to consolidate gains in the malaria control and prevention and work towards achieving the strategic goal of malaria elimination by 2020.
Balla Kandeh, acting programme manager of National Malaria Control Programme, urged the private sector to join the battle against malaria by strengthening the Roll Back Malaria partnership.
The governor of Upper River Region, Omar Sampoo Ceesay, also noted that the theme calls for increased investment to accelerate action to defeat malaria. “Malaria continues to have severe socio economic impact on communities,” he added.
The director of Regional Health Team in Basse, Ebrima Jaiteh, is of the view that much needs to be done to sustain gains and accelerate progress to meeting local and international targets. He noted that according to the health management information system, a downward trend in the cases of malaria case has been obsevered in the region from 2012- 2013 by 15% for under-5 and 3% for above 5 years with a corresponding low mortality.