Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - ECOWAS Commission president, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has called for concerted efforts in support of the ECOWAS campaign to eliminate malaria in West Africa by 2015.
Opening a four-day meeting of the ECOWAS malaria elimination taskforce on Monday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital city, the president, represented by the Director of Private Sector, Mr. Alfred Braimah, challenged the participants to come out with a roadmap that would feed into a high-level ministerial meeting scheduled for December 2012 to move the elimination campaign forward.
West Africa has the heaviest malaria burden on the continent, where a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria, which is a principal cause of morbidity and mortality among children and pregnant women.
Ouedraogo insisted that the goal of malaria elimination in the ECOWAS region was achievable through the strengthening of the vector control component (biolarviciding) of an integrated strategy under a Tripartite Agreement between Cuba, Venezuela and the Commission.
Implementation of the agreement emphasizes technology transfer, technical and financial support from Cuba and Venezuela to set up factories in West African countries (in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire) for the production of biolarvicide by Cuba’s Labiofam for large scale use for the region’s malaria elimination campaign.
In her presentation, Dr. Uche Amazigo, a former Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) African Programme for Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Control (APOC), shared the experiences of the defunct Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa, which used larviciding to successfully control the blinding disease in 11 West African countries between 1974 and 2002.
In addition to leveraging the OCP larviciding experience, Dr. Amazigo, a renowned researcher and public health expert, also noted that APOC’s trademark Community-Directed Intervention (CDI) strategy, which promotes community ownership and participation in public health care delivery would be very useful to the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign.
She, however, cautioned that “elimination of malaria will not happen without the active participation of individuals, families and communities,” while “Community participation cannot be sustained unless backed up by policy, governments, cross-border collaboration, research and importantly good management and uninterrupted financing.”
In setting the tune for the discussions, Dr. Mariane Ngoulla, Special Health Adviser to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, presented a graphic picture of the human and socio-economic devastation wrought by malaria in Africa, as well as international and continental interventions including the Global Malaria Elimination Campaign launched in 1955 by the eighth World Health Assembly, which excluded sub-Saharan Africa.
She said that in excluding Africa from that campaign, it was noted that “malaria control was to remain the objective until suitable, economically feasible methods became available for elimination of the disease”, in the continent.
But more than 50 years on, Dr. Ngoulla argues that African governments, scientists and people cannot accept the same excuses.
“Malaria elimination is a war and all the weapons are available and should be deployed swiftly and urgently,” she said, explaining that the objective of the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign “is not to duplicate or displace existing interventions, but to strengthen the vector control component (larviciding) under an integrated approach that is sustainable and achievable.”
Other presentations at the meeting included that on the application of biolarvicides know how transfer, impact evaluation, monitoring and evaluation, malaria module, civil society and community mobilization, strategic plan, communication strategic and Labiofam experiences.
The meeting will be rounded off on Thursday with a Town Hall meeting which will involve, among other things, a presentation of the larviciding programme to staff of the Commission and Community institutions in Abuja, ahead of a plan to commence the larviciding of the ECOWAS Commission headquarters and surroundings as a pilot
-0- PANA PR/VAO 1Aug2012