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65 Percent Of School Absences Due To Malaria 

By Daniel Gwarbarah

About 65 percent of absences registered in schools in Cameroon are attributed to malaria attacks. This information, from the 2004 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS, 2004) was presented to the media by the Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria, CCAM. This was during the malaria press event of April 27 at the CCAM headquarters in Yaoundé, aimed at "evaluating the fight against malaria in Cameroon."

Going by the CCAM release, pregnant women and children under five are the most vulnerable. "Although preventable and easy-to-treat, the disease continues to exert a ravaging impact on the population in both urban and rural settings," the CCAM fact sheet maintains. The DHS 2004 notes that malaria is responsible for 35 to 40 percent deaths in health structures; 50 percent deaths in children under five; 40 to 45 percent medical consultations and 30 percent of hospitalisation in Cameroon.

It notes further that the disease is also responsible for 26 percent absenteeism from work and consumes 40 percent of household budgets on the national territory. It is also highlighted that 60 percent of pregnant women suffer from malaria and that it is four times more likely to strike this category of women than other adults.

Talking on the malaria control global status, the Manager of CCAM, Dr. Esther Tallah, said it is expected that by December 2010 reduction goals must have led to a 50 percent drop in the number of cases and deaths recorded in 2000 and by 75 percent by 2015. She explained that by 2015 when a near zero mortality is expected to be recorded, people in malaria endemic zones should be able to truly affirm that they are sleeping under treated mosquito nets.

She considered key tools to effectively combat malaria to include prevention and treatment of the disease. She highlighted that the world and the government of Cameroon have adopted the use of long-lasting treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy as methods to roll back and stamp out malaria.

She stated that in 2008, 58 countries with 23 of them in Africa, adopted bed nets for all age groups at risk. Mentioning funding to combat the disease that comes from the Global Fund as well as from other bilateral partners, Dr. Tallah said much effort needs to be made for palpable results to be achieved. She however noted that eight countries in the world are within the pre-elimination phase, 10 are carrying out nationwide elimination programmes while nine are battling to interrupt the re-introduction of malaria in their communities.

Dr. Tallah insisted that the most effective way of treating malaria today is through the Artemisinine Combination Therapy (ACTs). Responding to a number of questions, Dr. Tallah strongly advised that the right and subsidised ACTs which stands at FCFA 200 could be gotten from health facilities and not from along the road.

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