The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) has held its annual strategic planning meeting in Accra to brainstorm on how to reconcile the various communication strategies to help kick malaria out of Africa.
AMMREM, which was formed in November 2006, as a network of African journalists and scientists, has been working to reduce the burden of malaria, which is endemic in most parts of the continent and is known to be the number one cause of under five mortality in the Africa.
Mrs Charity Binka, Executive Secretary of AMMREN, indicated that 19 print and electronic journalists from nine African countries, formed the network at its on-set, but its membership has currently risen to more than 50 in 10 African countries.
She named the participating African countries as Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and The Gambia.
Mrs Binka said it is the vision of the Network to become the leader in the provision of information to the public for the prevention and control of malaria in Africa.
She said although members of the network had championed this course over the years through their various writings, presenting information on the malaria situation in their respective countries, the efforts are yet to translate into gains.
Mrs Binka said it was critical that members re-strategize to fully harness the potential of the media to help achieve the objective to eradicating malaria in Africa.
She mentioned challenges such as inadequate funding and other technical support mechanisms, which placed much limitation on the successful implementation of programmes among other things.
Professor Alex Dodoo, Director of the WHO Collaborative Centre for Advocacy and Training in Pharmacovigilance , University of Ghana Medical School, urged AMMREN to be more aggressive in its advocacy.
“You must do more media advocacy and lobbying to attract attention and funding”, he said.
Prof. Dodoo, who gave an update on malaria vaccines and drugs development in Africa, said Ghana was nowhere near malaria eradication considering the trend of the disease in the country.
He mentioned existing malaria medications such as the ACTs that were in use both in Ghana and in other countries in Africa as being effective, but maintained that there was the need for scientists to progress faster at the development of a complete vaccine to eradicate malaria from the continent.
Prof. Dodoo cited the threat of possible resistance to insecticides being used for the treatment of bed nets.
He stressed that for malaria to be totally eradicated, there was the need for a vaccine and until this was achieved it would be difficult to make much headway considering the poor level of sanitation of the country.
This, he noted provided breeding grounds for the anopheles mosquito, which caused malaria.
Prof . Dodoo said that scientists were working tirelessly to develop a vaccine for malaria, but that would not be possible until 2014, as the vaccines developed were still being tested for their efficacy.
He said Ghana needed about one million dollars to complete studies on the malaria vaccine, and urged AMMREN to take the lead in advocating change in terms of political commitment and financial support by African governments to complete the study and secure the vaccine for eradicating malaria from the continent.
Prof Dodoo stressed that intensified advocacy would not only help change the public’s attitudes towards environmental sanitation, but also educate them on their rights to quality health care.
Ms Ellen Sam, a Clinical Pharmacist and Health Information Specialist, reiterated that malaria eradication in Africa could only be possible if governments and stakeholders put in sustained efforts and political will.
“There are safe, effective and affordable tools to prevent and treat malaria so people should not die of malaria”, she said.
Ms Sam stated that inspire of all the available tools, malaria still accounts for 40 percent of all Out Patient Department cases at hospitals.