Ghanaian Chronicle

Danger Of Drug-Resistant Malaria Parasite

Date published: May 2, 2013

Last Thursday, April 25, 2013, was celebrated world-wide as World Malaria Day, first declared in 2007 by the 60th Session of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

April 25 had earlier been celebrated as Africa Malaria Day from 2001, following the Abuja Declaration adopted by the leaders of the 44 malaria-endemic African countries, at the African Summit on Malaria in 2000.

World Malaria Day has great significance, as about 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria infestation. It was declared to recognise global efforts to control malaria.  Worldwide in 2009, a total of 781 people died from malaria, the majority of them being “mainly women and children in Africa.”

The day was established to provide “education and understanding of malaria”, and spread information on “year-long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in endemic areas.”

MAINLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN AFRICA? It is for this reason, among others, that The Chronicle is alarmed at news that broke about the time of the World Malaria Day celebration that the most effective treatment currently available for malaria – artemisinin – may be in its twilight days.

According to reports, a malaria parasite was discovered in 2008 in Western Cambodia that is genetically different from other strains around the world, noting “these organisms are able to withstand treatment by artemisinin – a frontline drug in the fight against malaria.”

And the strain is no longer confined to Cambodia, as it has since spread to other parts of South East Asia. And it is only a matter of time for it to reach Africa, in view of the on-going “invasion” of the continent by visitors from South East Asia.

The Chronicle fears that more and more African women and children are going to fall prey to this resistant strain of malaria, which has got the experts very worried.

Dr. Olivo Miotto of the University of Oxford and Manidol University of Thailand told the BBC: “All the most effective drugs that we have had in the last few decades have been one by one rendered useless by the remarkable ability of this parasite to mutate and develop resistance.

“Artemisinin, right now, works very well. It is the best weapon we have against the disease, and we need to keep it.”

As the objective of the WHO in instituting the World Malaria Day includes the promotion of community-based activities for malaria prevention…, The Chronicle calls on the relevant ministries – Health, and its specialised agencies, Interior and Science and Technology – to intensify our prevention methods, especially in view of our apparent impotence against fake drug traffickers.

The weekly environmental sanitation and inspection days, carried out by officials of the Ministry of the Interior, must be brought back ASAP.

There was also the weekly disinfection of stagnant waters in communities. It beats The Chronicle’s imagination that we have wilfully abandoned most of the good environmental hygiene that our colonial master, Britain, taught us and left us as a legacy.

It is appalling that colonisers would have our health needs nearer their hearts than we have the same need nearer our own hearts.  We ought to bow our heads in shame, now and forever.

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