Kenya blames single country efforts for upsurge in malaria cases in East Africa

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NAIROBI, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Single country efforts in the management of malaria are to blame for the upsurge in cases of the disease in the East African Community (EAC) economic bloc, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health Mutahi Kagwe said Thursday.

Kagwe said during the launch of the cross-border malaria control and prevention interventions at the Kenya-Uganda border in Busia, in western Kenya, that it is high time the EAC member states embark on a joint cross-border effort to reduce and finally eliminate malaria in the region.

Kagwe said that joint efforts of countries can provide a unique opportunity in the region since malaria does not recognize administrative borders, stressing the need to harmonize and synchronize the implementation of various malaria control interventions such as indoor residual spraying among member states.

The official recommended harmonized distribution cycles and timelines to avoid the loss of mosquito nets from critical target areas to areas where distribution is not happening, noting that the Great Lakes Malaria Initiative (GLMI) strategy envisions a malaria-free Africa Great Lakes Region that can be achieved by establishing and sustaining regional coordination, partnership and accountability mechanisms.

He said that as an economic block and free market, EAC members should support local industries to manufacture malaria commodities and provide a market for them from a combined population of more than 260 million people. According to Kagwe, the EAC countries -- Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania -- contribute a significant proportion of the malaria burden worldwide.

Kagwe believed that malaria is spread across borders by the movement of both mosquitoes and persons infected with the parasite incessantly crossing the busy border post in both directions. And regional countries share other transmission risk factors such as climate change, water bodies, malaria vector species, insecticide resistance, population growth rate and limited resources.

The EAC region in 2017 contributed 24.7 percent of all reported malaria cases worldwide and 10.2 percent of deaths due to malaria in the world, according to Kagwe.

Speakers at the meeting, including Ugandan Minister of Health Jane Ocero, and Tharcisse Mpunga, minister of State in charge of Primary Healthcare in Rwanda, said they look forward to continuous engagement with the EAC Secretariat and the malaria experts' technical working group in steering the execution of the GLMI strategy and the operational plan.

According to the 2020 world malaria report, despite the progress that has been made in the fight against malaria in the EAC, the region is still in a precarious position fighting malaria. And the disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to 12 percent of deaths because of malaria. Enditem

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