Mr. Chairman, reps from MOHS, other Line Ministries, UN Family Reps, NGO Partners
On behalf of the Minister of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry in general and on my own personal behalf, let me first of all graciously welcome you to this launching ceremony and thank you for honouring our invitation.
The Minister asked me to convey his good wishes and to wish you every good success in the launch of this programme. He would very much loved to be here but is being held up by other equally important commitments.
Mr. Chairman, this day 25th April 2015 is World Malaria Day, a time when Sierra Leone joins the global family to commemorate global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. The theme for this year’s commemoration which incidentally is the eight World Malaria Day is “INVEST IN THE FUTURE: DEFEAT MALARIA” with the slogan “IMPROVE MOTHER & CHILD HEALTH, DEFEAT MALARIA AND END POVERTY”.
|Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister 1, Mr. Foday Sawi Lahai
This special day is being commemorated in the entire world.This is so because unfortunately malaria continues to be endemic in 106 countries and territories around the globe. It is sad to note that malaria continues to threaten almost 40% of the World Population; as every year, around 500 million people suffer from the malaria scourge and over a million children die from this disease.
In Sierra Leone, malaria remains one of the prime causes of death among children and the biggest cause for medical consultations and hospitalization.
It is therefore no gain saying that this year’s theme and slogan underscore the ambition and determination of the international community to consolidate previous achievements and scale up efforts with a view to achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and defeat malaria in the near future.
This year’s theme and slogan is a wakeup call; it is a call of desperation for more support and investment in our concerted fight against this disease that has plagued the world in general and the African continent with devastating consequences.
National and international efforts to tackle malaria are working. The malaria map is shrinking: Over 100 countries are already free from malaria, at least 55 countries are on track to reduce malaria incidence by 75% by 2015, and 26 countries have begun working to eliminate the disease entirely. In Africa alone, 3 million child deaths and 340 million cases are estimated to have been averted due to malaria control interventions between 2001 and 2002. This is due to the rapid scale up of life-saving interventions which have subsequently resulted in a consistent reduction in global malaria cases and deaths over the past years.
These gains, while encouraging, are fragile. It is vital that efforts are sustained and expanded through a combination of increased national and international political will, investment on the ground and support for ongoing research and development for new and better tools to combat emerging threats like drug and insecticide resistance.
World Malaria Day represents a chance for all of us to make a difference whether you are a government, a company, a charitable organization or an individual, you can roll back malaria and help generate broad gains in multiple areas of health and human development.
I am calling on the private sector to be more active in the fight against malaria. Malaria is bad for business: the disease is responsible for decreased productivity, employee absenteeism, increased health care spending, and can negatively impact a company’s reputation.
World Malaria Day is an occasion to think about the burden of this disease, assess the current situation, and look to the future.
Against this backdrop, my Ministry through the National Malaria Control Programme in collaboration with partners has stepped up its commitment to scale up the proven and cost effective tools currently in existence to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.
Over the past couple of years, Sierra Leone has achieved a remarkable success in malaria control initiatives, with prevalence rate dropping from 68% in 1987 to 43% in 2013 according to the Sierra Leone Malaria Indicator Survey 2013.
In recognition of the progress made in malaria control over the past years, Sierra Leone was among the twelve countries to receive the 2015 African Leaders Malaria Alliance Award for Excellence.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, Sierra Leone is one of the three West African countries most affected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The EVD outbreak has impacted the malaria programme interventions in particular and the health system in general. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has further threatened to reverse the gains of the efforts made by the Government and its partners.
In order to prevent further illness and deaths due to malaria, at a time when the country was experiencing massive upsurge in Ebola epidemic, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through the National Malaria Control Programme, in collaboration with partners conducted the largest -ever distribution of antimalarial drugs in Africa, as well as in the context of an Ebola epidemic.
Overall, the national mass drug administration malaria campaign is believed to have reached over 2.6 million people in the targeted areas highest affected by Ebola Virus Disease.
The Mass Drug Administration for malaria has been a successful operation in general and we strongly believe that it has had a profound positive impact in reducing the transmission of malaria and number of suspected cases attending Ebola Holding Centres. This activity acted as a complimentary approach to contain the Ebola epidemic in this country while contributing to decrease in mortality and morbidity linked to malaria.
Incidentally, restoring malaria prevention and treatment interventions at health facility and community levels remains a high priority on Sierra Leone’s health recovery plan and building a sustained resilient health system.
As I conclude my address on this significant day, let me re-echo the words of the United Nations Secretary General, Dr. Ban Ki Moon when he said
“We cannot take recent successes in fighting the malaria disease for granted. Gains are fragile.
Sustaining them will require our continued commitment, innovative thinking and financial support.
We will need to push even harder to sustain the benefits of prevention, press further to reduce infections, invest in human capacity, and ensure universal access to diagnoses and treatment”.
Mr. Chairman, let me confidently say that government’s commitment to the fight against malaria in collaboration with the Roll Back Malaria partners and other key stakeholders is already having major impact.
We are beginning to see a change in attitude towards this disease in Sierra Leone. No more is malaria accepted as a “fact of life” or an “intractable problem”.With continued concerted action, we now have no doubt that this malaria scourge, our common enemy, which accounts for over 40.3% of our out-patient morbidity, can indeed be won.
As a responsible Government, we are committed to the control of malaria in Sierra Leone and are therefore working devotedly towards its effective control within the context of the Agenda for Prosperity.
As I close let me once again join fellow Sierra Leoneans to “INVEST IN THE FUTURE: DEFEAT MALARIA” and “IMPROVE MOTHER & CHILD HEALTH, DEFEAT MALARIA AND END POVERTY”.
Therefore by the power vested in me it is with great pleasure that I now formally launch the World Malaria Day.
I thank you all for your attention and God bless you.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.