Uganda has been listed among countries that didn’t fully utilize one of the malaria prevention strategies of bed net distribution in 2021.
According to new data released by the World Health Organization-WHO on Thursday, the country distributed less than 60 percent of the nets that they were supposed to distribute.
Uganda is categorized together with seven other countries including Benin, Eritrea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vanuatu which failed to hit the 60 percent mark.
Generally, the World Malaria report, which is released annually shows that a total of 171 million mosquito nets had been planned for distribution as this is the primary vector control tool used in most malaria-endemic countries. But of these, 128 million nets were distributed accounting for 75% of the target.
Seven countries including Botswana, the Central African Republic, Chad, Haiti, India, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone did not distribute any insecticide-treated nets.
However, while generally, countries experienced setbacks to malaria prevention, testing, and treatment services due to the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted the provision of key services, the report says malaria cases and deaths remained stable in 2021.
There were an estimated 619,000 malaria deaths globally in 2021 compared to 625,000 in the first year of the pandemic. In 2019, before the pandemic struck, the number of deaths stood at 568,000.
The reports also show the cases continued to rise between 2020 and 2021, but at a slower rate than in the period 2019 to 2020. The global tally of malaria cases reached 247 million in 2021, compared to 245 million in 2020 and 232 million in 2019.
“Following a marked increase in malaria cases and deaths in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, malaria-affected countries redoubled their efforts and were able to mitigate the worst impacts of Covid-related disruptions to malaria services,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General while commenting about the report.
“We face many challenges, but there are many reasons for hope. By strengthening the response, understanding and mitigating the risks, building resilience, and accelerating research, there is every reason to dream of a malaria-free future.”
The report gives an update on each of the key interventions put in place to aid prevention.
Regarding Seasonal Malaria chemoprevention (SMC) which is recommended to prevent the disease among children living in areas with highly seasonal malaria transmission in Africa.
In 2021, nearly 45 million children were reached per SMC cycle in 15 African countries. This accounts for an increase from 33.4 million in 2020 and 22.1 million in 2019.
In the area of testing and treatment, malaria-endemic countries distributed 223 million Rapid Diagnostic Tests, a similar level reported before the pandemic. In addition, an estimated 242 million treatments were delivered worldwide in 2021 compared to 239 million ACTs in 2019.
However, while figures show some stability in the provision of key malaria prevention and treatment services globally, experts at the WHO say rising biological threats and a decline in the effectiveness of core disease-cutting tools continue to threaten the global response to malaria.
“Despite progress, the African region continues to be hardest hit by this deadly disease,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “New tools and the funding to deploy these are urgently needed to help us defeat malaria.”
Total funding for malaria in 2021 was US$ 3.5 billion, an increase from the two previous years but well below the estimated US$ 7.3 billion required globally to stay on track to defeat malaria.
At the same time, a decline in the effectiveness of core malaria control tools such as insecticide-treated bed nets is impeding further progress against malaria.
Threats to this key prevention tool include insecticide resistance; insufficient access; loss of nets due to the stresses of day-to-day use outpacing replacement; and changing behavior of mosquitoes, which appear to be biting early before people go to bed and resting outdoors, thereby evading exposure to insecticides.