Investing and Sustaining: Lessons from Rwanda on World Malaria Day

Rwanda on track to zero deaths from malaria by 2015

By Dr. Corine Karema

Today, April 25th, the world will be commemorating Malaria Day as stipulated in the Abuja Declaration of 2000. Just like the previous years, Rwanda will join the rest of the world in commemorating this day by highlighting achievements in controlling Malaria while also renewing commitment of achieving zero targets of malaria related deaths by 2015.

The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria”, a theme that is testimony to the renewed global commitment of finding lasting solutions for eliminating Malaria from our midst.  For Rwanda, a country that has registered significant progress in combating Malaria, this commitment is a shared vision for which we attach greater value.

Coming up with sustainable and investment solutions for Malaria control is a new discourse which underlines the importance of continued investment in combating this disease with the view of propelling malaria-endemic countries along the path of achieving the health and poverty related Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Here in Rwanda, the battle against Malaria has not been an easy one. It has called for strategic interventions, committed leadership of our government and support from development partners to register progress that we see today across the country.

I will share with you some of the outstanding achievements we have registered over the past years, many of which are captured in the recently released 2010 Demographic Health Survey (DHS). The recent scaling up of interventions has made significant progress:

  • reductions in morbidity by 87% from 1,669,614 malaria cases in 2005 to 212,200 cases in 2011 and
  • reduced mortality by 76% from 1,582 deaths in 2005 to 380 deaths in 2011.

dscn7129asm.jpgThis reduction is as a result of scaling up of preventive measures especially coverage and use of long lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) which according to the 2010 DHS results…

  • 82% of households have at least one LLIN
  • 72% of pregnant women slept under their nets and
  • 70% of children under-five years were using bed nets

Previously and as the case is in most developing countries, Malaria is treated based on signs and symptoms. However, Rwanda is one of the few countries in the world today where up to 94 percent of Malaria cases are laboratory through microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests at all levels of health care structure including the community level.

The involvement of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in early diagnosis and treatment of children Under-five years has also had an impact on malaria incidence throughout the country as currently 95% of children are tested and treated for malaria within 24 hours of symptoms onset.

In addition, Malaria control activities have been integrated and decentralized at all levels including –

  • a strong CHWs network which facilitates community involvement and participation,
  • the community health insurance scheme also known as Mutuelles de Sante and
  • a strong Health Management Information Systems (HMIS) including the web based community health information system (SIS.com)

The above interventions are strengthened by use of mobilisation and sensitisation campaigns using different channels of communication. The advocacy and social mobilisation is oriented towards intensifying different efforts to sustain the gains made as the country moves towards pre-elimination phase of malaria as outlined in the new Malaria Strategic Plan (2012-2017).

To emphasize on the importance of the World Malaria Day, this year’s event will be held during the scheduled Rwanda Malaria Forum that will be held in Kigali in mid June 2012. The Forum will bring together malaria experts from international community who will deliberate on the challenges African countries and in particular, Rwanda, face in malaria control and how to overcome them.

The recommendations of the forum will guide our sector in finalizing the new Malaria Strategic Plan that outlines Rwanda’s strategies from malaria control to pre-elimination phase by 2017. A series of activities to run for a week have also been planned to reach community levels where different interventions of promoting awareness on preventive measures will be discussed with input from community leaders.

Therefore, as we mark this day in Rwanda, we take pride of our achievements but also remain mindful and conscious of the challenges ahead a in realising the ambitious target of having a Rwanda that is free from Malaria.

The Author is Head of Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases Division Rwanda Biomedical Center/IHPDPC, Follow: Twitter @ckarema

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