Leaders poke holes in govt’s malaria control programme


What you need to know:

  • The leaders say malaria cases have remained high in the area despite implementation of the Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) programme.

Kibuku District councillors have passed a resolution opposing the government’s Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) programme, saying it is not an effective strategy to fight the high malaria cases in the area.

During the end of year council meeting chaired by the district speaker, Mr Muzamir Masiga, on Tuesday, the councillors said they need a new strategy to combat malaria, whose positivity rate stands at between 60 and 70 percent, according to statistics from the district health department.

Mr Masiga told the Monitor that the councillors opposed the IRS programme because they have not seen its impact in the district in the past seven years since it was introduced.

“Despite government intervention to reduce malaria prevalence, the IRS programme has been associated with causing other illnesses, which result in deaths,” he said.

Kibuku is listed among districts in eastern Uganda with the highest malaria incidence rate. According to statistics from the district health department, the district registered 13,056 cases in January and 9,925 in February.

Mr Masiga said as leaders, they will continue to sensitise communities to sleep under mosquito nets and as well close doors before dark.

What residents say

Some residents told the Monitor that from the previous experience, many families developed side effects of the toxic chemicals they used to spray their houses.

“We had on numerous occasions raised complaints about the IRS programme but were were not listened to. I am happy councillors have acted,” Mr John Kirya, a resident of Budaka Town Council, said.

Mr Rashid Mulekwa, the councillor representing Nabiswa Sub-county, said the district council is also demanding for a clear explanation from the Ministry of Health as to why malaria cases are on the rise despite the IRS programme.

“We want to know the effectiveness of the IRS drugs used to fight malaria because there is an increase of malaria cases and deaths, mainly children and pregnant mothers,” he said.

Mr Augustine Moleka Majanga, the district secretary for health and education, said the community members have also started spraying their crops using IRS drugs, something he said puts lives at risk.

“The people have not been sensitised well. They make blunders with the drugs,” he said.

Mr Majanga said for some time now, the  district has registered numerous cases of children dying from malaria but the government has not intervened.

“The situation generally  is not so-good because the district is on a daily basis  getting reports of children dying as a result of severe malaria,” he said.

The IRS programme is funded by USAID under the Presidential Malaria Initiative and implemented by district local governments.

The District Health Officer, Dr Godfrey Buyinza, however, told Monitor during an interview that there is no evidence that the IRS programme is ineffective.

“We have a team from the Ministry of Health regarding the resolution by the council to prohibit the IRS programme. IRS is a government policy and as technical people, we are supposed to implement it,” he said.

He, however, confirmed during an earlier interview that there is an upsurge of malaria in the district.

“We have noticed that there is an increase in malaria according to our weekly reports especially in between May and June 2020, the numbers were extremely high,” Dr Buyinza said.

Worrying trend

Malaria kills around 14 people per day in Uganda and causes an annual economic loss of $500 million (Shs1.9 trillion) due to treatment costs and work time lost, according to government statistics.

In October, the Ministry of Health announced a mass Indoor Residual Spraying exercise in 13 high-burden districts in West Nile and Lango sub-regions.