The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Omar Sey, on Tuesday launched the national Seasonal Malaria Chemotherapy (SMC) project in Bakadagy, Jimara District, Upper River Region.
The project is aimed at fighting against malaria in the communities, especially among children under five years of age.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Sey stated that the launching demonstrates the Gambia’s renewed efforts to make progress towards preventing and controlling malaria so that it ceases to be a major public health problem in the country.
“Reducing the impact of malaria is key to the achievement of MDGs as agreed by every United Nations Member State, especially on MDGs 4, 5 and 6 which is also in line with President Jammeh’s Vision 2020 blueprint initiative,” he stated, adding that they must soberly reflect on the progress made and renew their collective efforts towards eventually eliminating malaria in The Gambia.
He further asserted that the project is spearheaded by The Gambia Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in collaboration with his Ministry, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Minister Sey added that this SMC project came about when the WHO recommended it as an effective intervention to prevent malaria in approximately 24 million children aged 3-59 months who live in areas subject to a seasonal surge in malaria incidence (mainly in the Sahel sub-region), noting that numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of SMC.
Balla Kandeh, the Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), said the lunching clearly demonstrates the level of partnership established over the years by the Health Ministry and the NMCP.
He added that controlling and preventing malaria requires a collaborative effort from all sectors of the society, saying no single person or unit can do it alone. He noted that anybody can help in a great deal in advocacy, social mobilisation campaigns or showcase the efforts made against combating the malaria disease virus.
Kandeh said Malaria remains a major public health problem with an estimated burden of 216 million clinical episodes and 655, 000 deaths worldwide attributable to malaria in 2010, adding that a significant proportion of 91% reported deaths from malaria occurs in sub-Saharan Africa where he said, children under-five years of age bear most of the burden.
Ebrima Baldeh, the Regional Health Director in URR, said the SMC is defined as the intermittent administration of full treatment courses of an anti-malaria medicine during the malaria season to prevent malarial illnesses with the objective of maintaining therapeutic anti-malarial drug concentration in the blood throughout the period of greatest malaria risk.
He, however, said that SMC medication is given to children under-five years of age from August to November at an interval of 28 days, adding that malaria remains a major public health problem with an estimated burden of 198 million clinical episode and 584, 000 deaths worldwide attributable to malaria in 2013.
Ousman Njie, the Head of CRS Office in The Gambia, said their involvement is purely to help the communities and people in the fight against any problem with their health.
by Arfang MS Camara