Uganda turns to China in fight against malaria

A bite from an infected female anopheles mosquito is the common way through which malaria is transmitted. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The US  is still supporting the fight against malaria, HIV and other diseases per the ministry. 

Uganda’s Health ministry has requested China to donate medicines and provide technical support for elimination of malaria, the manager of the Malaria Control Programme has revealed.

Dr Jimmy Opigo told Sunday Monitor in an interview on Thursday that they are collaborating with China because they “ended malaria and we know the strategy they used.” 

Dr Opigo said Uganda is still registering unacceptably high numbers of malaria infections, with around 16 deaths happening daily. Last year, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, disclosed that the country loses Shs2.4 trillion annually due to malaria.

The information about Uganda’s collaboration with China comes at a time some development partners are reducing or have warned of reducing budgetary support to the country’s health system. There have also been heightened threats of funding cuts by some of the major donors like the United States (US) government, following the enactment of the anti-homosexuality law. 

According to 2022 information from the Health ministry, “over the past five years, the United States Agency for International Development (USaid), has invested $480m (Shs1.8 trillion) in the fight against malaria in Uganda.” 

The US is still supporting the fight against malaria, HIV and other diseases per the ministry. 

Last month, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s Health minister, said development partners asked Uganda and other countries with high malaria burden to take charge of the fight through increased domestic funding. This was during a conference staged in Cameroon, involving 11 countries with a high malaria burden.

“Partner after partner came to speak and they said: ‘The world has moved on. The world has moved on to climate change, to global health security, wars in various areas and for you, you’re still on malaria? We have moved on, so you need to look for your own domestic resources and end your malaria’,” Minister Aceng said. Amid this, Uganda’s relationship with China appears to be growing in the area of health system support. This month, China’s Ambassador to Uganda, Mr Zhang Lizhong, handed over around 500,000 packs and doses of anti-malaria medicines worth $1.1 million (about Shs4b) to Dr Aceng per information from the National Medical Stores (NMS).

NMS said the donation from the Chinese Anti-Malaria Emergency Humanitarian Aid included: “Artesunate for Injection (20,800 boxes, Artesun), Compound Artemether Tablet (80,000 boxes, CometherTM), Compound Dihydroartemisinin Tablet (391,200 boxes, Duo-Cotecxin).”

On Thursday, Vice President Jessica Alupo, in her speech during the World Malaria Day Scientific Colloquium in Kampala, said: “We have recently received a donation of 500,000 packs of anti-malarial medicine from [the] People’s Republic of China, which government plans to use for mass campaign to address the transmission of the malaria parasite.”

Dr Opigo said before using the medicines, the Health ministry intends “to do targeted screening and treatment because Uganda is so big.” Trials will be undertaken in Kibuku, Serere, Butaleja and Alebtong districts.