New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: 100,000 Ugandans Die of Malaria Every Year - Minister

Uganda records an estimated 100,000 malaria related deaths per year with children being the majority, the minister of health, Dr. Christine Ondoa, has said.

Ondoa says in terms of the burden to our health system, clinically diagnosed malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, accounting for approximately 30-50% of outpatient visits at health facilities, 15-20 of all hospital admissions, and 9-14% of all inpatient deaths.

"Malaria remains one of the greatest public health problems in Uganda," Ondoa said.

She said this is due to the country's tropical climate and seven months of rainfall allowing perennial malaria transmission across 95% of the country.

Ondoa said malaria is also responsible for significant economic losses suffered by the people of Uganda through; direct costs of medical care, reduced productivity of malaria sufferers and their caretakers, poor child development and educational performance resulting from absenteeism by both pupils and teachers.

She said malaria is also discouraging foreign direct investment and hurting trade and tourism.

Ondoa was on Friday giving her remarks during the National launch of long lasting insecticide treated nets universal campaign and commemoration of World Malaria day presided over by President Museveni at Soroti Sports Grounds in Soroti town.

Ondoa said Government has prioritised the prevention and control of communicable diseases like malaria in order to reduce the high national disease burden as outlined in the health sector strategic and investment plan of the ministry of health. She appealed to the people to sleep under insecticide treated mosquito nets.

The Director General Health Services, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, said the eastern region will receive nets in the months of May and June; central I in July and August, western in September and October, southern in October and November while northern will receive in November and December.

Aceng said the nets were procured by Global Fund, USAID/PMI, DFID/UKAid, and Word Vision.

While launcing the campaign, President Museveni urged Ugandans to take care of their health if they want to live longer. He said health is wealth and that if you are not healthy, you cannot do what you want to do.

He said in order for one to be healthy, there are seven things to be followed including immunization, observing proper hygiene, nutrition, and behavioural change.

Others are vector control, drinking clean and safe water, and getting treatment when one falls sick.

He cautioned people against excessive drinking of alcohol saying it is very dangerous to one's health.

"You find someone drinking alcohol until the liver gets destroyed, lips become red and the cheeks are swollen like ripe bananas, and then you also come and talk about health," he said.

He asked the leaders at various levels to ensure that people understand the importance of healthy living.

He said the net distribution is for controlling the vector (mosquitos).

Museveni directed the ministry of health to speed up the ongoing experiments of killing mosquitoes right from their breeding grounds.

He said the nets, though sometimes not convenient, are to be used in the meantime as government works around the clock to eliminate mosquitoes completely in the country using larval control.

He said there have been some trials of larvicides in Wakiso and Nakasongola.

He said larval control is very effective and safe as it kills the mosquitoes from their breeding grounds.

Museveni commended to the development partners for their contribution towards improving the lives of the people in the country.

"I would like to thank Global Fund for contributing 15.5 million nets, President of America, Obama and Government of the United Kingdom for giving us 5m nets, each, and World Vision or their donation of 500,000 net," he said.

He said the army will take a lead in the distribution of the long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets to ensure that no single net is stolen.

He said in the military there are two codes; operational code (used during the wars) and code of conduct (during normal life).

"The distribution of these nets will be done using Government systems including the army," he said.

He said as an operational commander: "I now announce, we soldiers know it, we are going to do this exercise using operational code; but what I don't want to hear is that a single bed net has been stolen."

He cautioned Village Health Teams (VHTs) that whoever is found doing the contrary will be treated like a soldier.

"Whoever is found stealing nets meant to help the people fight malaria, be it civilian, will be treated using army law," he said.

He promised to come back to talk to the people about prosperity for all saying that poverty is also a big problem amongst the population.

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