The country office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Ghana has undertaken a week-long tour of the Central and Western Regions to gather information on the use and impact of the Long Lasting treated Insecticides Mosquito Nets (LLINs) distributed by the organization in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to fight the scourge of malaria.
UNICEF-Ghana procured 2.35 million LLINs through a financial contribution by the Department for International Development (DFID) in September 2010 to cover an estimated population of 4.7 million in malaria control and other related activities such as awareness campaigns, behavioural change activities associated with the benefits of the regular and correct use of LLINs in the two regions.
The tour took the team to Nzulenzu, Kamgbunli and the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Jomoro and Ellembele Districts of the Western Region, and Nkanfoa and Ekon Anaafo in the Cape Coast Metropolis of the Central Region which are beneficiary communities of the LLINs.
At Nzulenzu, an ‘overseas’ community in the Jomoro District which has 94 households with about 450 people, Mr James Arthiaba, a resident of the community and Unit Committee member of the electoral area, acknowledged that every household was a beneficiary of the LLINs.
He said: “I was a member of the registration and distribution team and as far as I am concerned, everybody in all the household in this community has the LLINs and are using them”.
Mr Arthiaba confessed that malaria was a source of worry in the community and that the members welcomed the assistance, adding “Since the distribution in late 2011 malaria cases in the community have reduced drastically.”
He said the intervention had helped to reduce the over 50 per cent malaria cases recorded in the district in late 2011 to 28 per cent after the distribution of the LLINs in 2012, adding that the control programme was encouraging.
Mr Arthiaba appealed to other organizations to support the GHS to extend the control programmes to other endemic communities.
Mr Joseph Azabire, Jomoro District Disease Control Officer said the District Health Directorate (DHD) received 82,900 LLINs from UNICEF, the National Malaria Control and the World Health Organization for distribution to help control malaria.
He said apart from benefitting from the nets, the communities in the endemic areas along the river banks had benefitted from a training programme on the detection and management of malaria and other diseases.
Earlier, the team was at Nkanfoa and Ekon Anaafo in the Cape Coast Metropolis where the Coastal Television, a partner of UNICEF in the malaria control organized a programme for school children to share their knowledge on malaria and the use of the LLINs.
The children shared their knowledge on the causes of malaria and its preventive methods and confessed that some parents after receiving the LLINs did not use them.
Ms Hanna Vanderpuye, a Headmistress of one the Schools said there was a youth programme every Friday in which health personnel offered health education to the children, adding, “This is in addition to the knowledge they acquire during their science periods.”
A similar programme was organized at Ekon Anaafo also in the Cape Coast Metropolis where the residents of the community shared their experience on how the nets had benefited them in terms of malaria control.
Mr Ben S.K. Quansah, Assemblyman of the area said majority of the residents were attributing the malaria endemic to witchcraft and that he had started a monthly malaria education programme with each community.
He said about 900 people had received the LLINs in the area, adding “Some of the residents who did not benefit from the distribution were buying from the pharmacy shops when they were told about the benefits of the nets.”
Mr Quansah called on donor organizations and the government to provide more LLINs for distribution because of the enormous benefits from using them.
Malaria is hyper-endemic in Ghana and the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children under five years, accounting for 22 per cent under-five deaths and nine (9) per cent of maternal deaths in 2007.
The Ministry of Health estimates that about 3.5 million cases of suspected malaria cases are reported every year in public health facilities representing 40 per cent of outpatient attendance, out of which 900,000 are children.
The Ghana Malaria Control Programme has adopted the use of LLINs as one of the key strategies to control malaria under the strategic plan for malaria control in Ghana (2008-2015).