World Malaria Day is a global observance day set to highlight, recognize and refuel global efforts in combating malaria.The purpose of this day is to provide “education and understanding of malaria” whilst also creating public awareness on the  “year-long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in endemic areas.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the African Union Commission and other organizations created the campaign, “Zero malaria starts with me”. A grassroots movement aimed at keeping malaria high on political agendas and empowering communities to take ownership of malaria and it’s control. After decades of steady achievements in fighting malaria, progress has stagnated. This years campaign pushes for continued progress by personalizing the fight against malaria and bringing responsibility back to individuals and communities, reminding us that we all have a role to play in the fight against malaria.

Data provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that over the years there has been some progress in the fight against malaria. The data shows that there have been significant reduction in malaria cases between 2010 and 2017 worldwide. In Ghana, there have been a number of initiatives tackling malaria management, treatment, prevention and control. The Bridging Gaps; Innovate for Malaria by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights have worked towards malaria education, prevention and control over the last 3 years.

ARHR continues to implement a community-based initiative with funding provided by Comic Relief’s “Fighting Malaria Improving Health” program. The overall aim of the program is: to establish and fortify health system accountability system that ensure patients have an improved knowledge of malaria management; to use community led research to generate evidence on gaps in malaria service delivery for better decision making; and, to advocate for improved primary health care inline with Ghana’s Universal health Coverage targets. 

Community, district and national level stakeholders including traditional leaders, health providers, policy makers have been gathered to engage in discourse around recurring health system challenges revealed in the assessments. These interface meetings have been shown to garner strong community-leadership communication. Among the many successes of this community-led research and solution finding was the improvement in health facility responsiveness to patient needs; overall patients have reported better interactions with their providers.

Data generation tools endorse accountable heath systems and are vital to achieving quality care in Ghana. As efforts surrounding this years World Malaria Day theme continue, there is a need to continue to empower communities to take ownership of their health and demand the services they desire. Similarly, health facilities must be held accountable for providing quality services and supported with evidence to respond to patient expectations of care.

A holistic approach to health improvement that looks at the role of all stakeholders in malaria reduction will ensure that we end the disease burden for good.

Sources:

1.World Malaria Report (2018), World Health Organization

2.“World Malaria Report at a Glance” (2018) World Health Organization

3. UNICEF (Malaria Report) Updated 2018

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