Malaria Day in Ghana, a reflection of the odds

Post date: Apr 25, 2011 10:54:45 AM

According to the World Health Organization report on malaria in Ghana, US$27million and US$38million was spent on Malaria in 2008 and 2009 respectively.  In spite of the huge amount of money invested, Ghana still recorded very worrying figures with 3,694,671 cases in 2009 compared to 3,200,147 in 2008. Admission to hospitals due to malaria also went up from 272,802 in 2008 to 277,047 in 2009. Death due to Malaria from the records of clinics and hospitals stood at 3,378 in 2009.

It must be noted that, the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) is on record in it strategic plan that 70% of the Ghanaian population rely on traditional medicines. The absence of data from traditional medicine providers therefore should raise concern on the number of malaria deaths and sickness that goes unreported.

The increase in the scourge of malaria should be accepted as a failure on leadership responsible for controlling and or eliminating Malaria in Ghana. Indeed, the National Malaria Control strategic plan is a failed policy program and should therefore be re-examined. There is too much wastage on personnel instead of actual resources going into interventions that will help reduce both cases of admission and deaths. Over 30% of money allocated for Malaria Control went into Human Resources alone.

Historically malaria has been the cause of deaths all over the world. Of course it is no longer a threat to the developed world and has been modified in the developing countries with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa where it is endemic. The United States was one of the first Western Counties to eliminate malaria, due to an extended campaign using surplus military aircraft left over from World War 2 which was equipped with insecticide dispersal systems necessary to dispense DDT as a Dust or liquid. This operation was a success and by 1950 only 5 years after the end of the war the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia, declared the United States malaria free.

Mr. Robert Desowitz in his book THE MALARIA CAPERS writes; from colonial times until the 1940s, malaria was the American disease. One of the first military expenditures of the Continental Congress was for $300 dollars to buy quinine to protect General Washingtons troops. During the Civil War one half of the white troops and four fifths of the black soldiers of the Union Army were stricken with malaria annually.

The malaria mosquito has the reputation of being 9 feet tall in Sub-Saharan Africa, more feared than the mighty crocodile. The truth be told, it is just an insignificant noisy insect, a biological creature, just like us. If the humble mosquito has the ability to infect humans with a parasite, humans should reciprocate in kind and infect the mosquito with an organism, to give as well as we get from this bane of mankind.

To be more specific, I would like to propose at this time we use a biological agent known as a fungus spore. There is a product in commercial production in the United States, used on organic farms that also have applications for the control of adult mosquitoes. Research done on malaria mosquitoes has indicated only one spore has the ability to kill a mosquito. Although it may take up to 10 days to kill the mosquito, after 2 days the mosquito no longer feeds. This product is a soil fungus, most soil insects are immune to its effects. However an airborne insect like the mosquito has no natural immunity to this spore and according to research done at UC Davis in California, the mosquito will never develop immunity to this fungus. When exposed the mosquitoes were 80 times less likely to transmit malaria.

According to Dr. Kenneth D. Vernick, a microbiologist at the University of Minnesota stated a soil fungus that devoured insects, whose mosquito-killing powers were described by British scientists last year, could be used to hunt down the most malaria-susceptible bugs in any swarm and knock them out of the gene pool. He also said for unknown reasons, it weakens plasmodium-carrying mosquitoes more than it does others. Even after exposure to a 12 day old spray, 89% of the mosquitoes died.

This is good news as plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous parasite of the four malaria parasites that infect man and the most prevalent by far in Ghana where it comprises up to 98% of infections.

This is all fine and dandy you might say, however, how is this fungus spore to be delivered to the recipient, the malaria mosquito? The same way the Americans did it 60 years ago, using aircraft equipped with insecticide, aerosol generators. This is the only effective method.

WHO writes in it 2010 report on Ghana, ‘’there is no evidence of a reduction in suspected malaria cases between 2000 and 2009, while inpatient cases in all ages increased’’.

Hayford Siaw, Executive Director : Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa