70 districts move out of malaria epidemic

Sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net is the best way to prevent mosquito bites. Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • Statistics from the ministry indicate that in June 2022, 71 districts were in the epidemic zone and the number increased to 73 in October 2022 but this declined to 12 in July 2023 following increased interventions such as prevention, test and treat approaches. 

The Division of Malaria Control at the Health Ministry says the country has moved out malaria epidemic, which had affected over 70 districts.
“We are completely out of the epidemic now,” Dr Jimmy Opigo, the Malaria Control Programme manager, said in an interview in Kampala yesterday. 

“At the moment, the reported numbers range from 20-40 deaths per week but there are some deaths that occur in homes and private facilities. We think there is an average of around 16 people dying per day. At the peak of the epidemic, the deaths doubled. That is why our focus is on [reducing] death,” he added. 

A malaria epidemic refers to the occurrence of cases higher than the number expected in a given place and period, according to epidemiologists. 
Dr Opigo attributed the decline to effective approaches used by the ministry.  “There has been a very focused intervention –strong surveillance and community mobilisation to end the epidemic. We have basically ended it and we are on surveillance now,” he said.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said earlier that they also undertook rigorous and impactful measures such as deploying paediatric nurses in epidemic districts to conduct onsite mentorships for emergency triage and treatment for severe cases of malaria. She said this “immensely contributed to reducing deaths in health facilities and at the community level.” 
Malaria treatment reduces the number of people with malaria parasites, which mosquitoes rely on as sources of the parasites. 

According to data from the ministry, during the epidemic, the malaria test positivity rate increased from an average of 30 percent early this year to the current estimate of 58 percent. The positivity rate refers to the positive cases detected from analysed blood samples from people.

However, the ministry warned that even after the end of the epidemic, cases of malaria infections are still unacceptably high with an average of 16 deaths happening in the country daily.
Dr Opigo was speaking on the sidelines during the World Malaria Day Scientific Colloquium in Kampala being held under the theme: ‘Say No to Malaria Deaths: Malaria Should not Defeat Us.’

 Researchers are presenting reports that the ministry hopes to use to improve the effectiveness of the malaria response.
Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary of the Health Ministry, said during the conference that there is a need to embrace evidence to inform policies being employed in the malaria fight.
“We should not be losing people to malaria when we know exactly how malaria is spread, how it can be prevented, and treated.  One wonders, with all this information, what are we not doing right to deal with malaria!” she said.
Vice President Jessica Alupo, who was the chief guest at the conference, said the government would do everything to reduce the burden of malaria.

“We have recently received a donation of 500,000 packs of anti-malarial medicine from the People’s Republic of China, which the government plans to use for a mass campaign to address the transmission of the malaria parasite,” the Vice President added.
Dr Atwine said plans are also underway to introduce malaria vaccine, which will work with other existing malaria prevention to reduce malaria burden in Uganda.