The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: Anti-Malaria Strategy Under Review

An international forum of medical experts is expected to begin today to review the progress made by Rwanda in reducing malaria infections as well as plan ways of eliminating the pandemic.

The three-day forum to be held in Kigali will align and coordinate strategies according to the current malaria situation and plan for ways of realising zero deaths due to malaria.

"During this forum, we expect to review the progress made in the fight against malaria at national and regional level, identify challenges as well as learn from good practices in the fight against malaria especially in the context of pre-elimination," Dr Corine Karema, the head of Division, Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre said.

According to Karema, the forum will identify strategies which will help to maintain gains and to reach the pre-elimination by 2017.

The forum is expected to be attended by experts from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zanzibar and South Sudan.

Several other international experts are expected to attend.

Rwanda has made remarkable progress in the fight against malaria in a relatively short time although the country faced 15.6% malaria increase in infection at the end of 2008 and 2009, due to a one year delay in procuring mosquito nets.

However the preliminary report of the Demographic Health Survey of 2010 indicate that 83 % of households nationwide own at least one mosquito net of any type, and 82 % own at least one insecticide-treated net (ITN).

Karema says overall, 73% of pregnant women age 15-49 slept under a mosquito net the night before the survey.

"In 2010, the rate of malaria cases treated after laboratory confirmation is 94% and 96% in 2011. 93% children under five years were treated at the community level within 24 hours for symptom onset," said Karema.

For a country to enter the Malaria pre-elimination phase, cases of people with malaria (Test Positivity Rate) should be less that 5%. Rwanda seems to be on track with a tremendous decrease in Test Positivity Rate case.

In 2010, the Test Positivity Rate cases stood at 22, 2% while last year, the figures had gone down to 13.1%.

"Interestingly, the malaria burden in Rwanda has transitioned from a nationwide phenomenon to become focalized in 5 high malaria burden districts which coincidentally border highly malaria endemic neighbouring countries," said Karema.

She says that these districts account for over 70% of the malaria burden.

"In fact, 18 out of 30 districts have already achieved less than 5% and many more districts have seen significant declines in the malaria burden and are transitioning to epidemic-prone status," said Karema

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