Over 150 participants took a major step to end malaria in South Sudan during the first-ever national malaria conference that took place from November 8 to November 10, 2022.
The conference with the theme “saving lives from malaria in a protracted humanitarian emergency setting” galvanized plans and actions by South Sudan’s health sector.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
- South Sudan’s first national malaria conference unites Government and partners to renew efforts towards ending malaria
- Malaria remains the leading cause of illness and death in the country accounting for 66.8 per cent of outpatient consultations, 30 per cent of admissions and about 50 per cent of deaths.
- Malaria takes its toll not only in lives lost, but also in medical costs, lost income, and reduced economic output. The annual direct and indirect costs of malaria in Africa are estimated to be more than US$2 billion, according to the WHO.
- South Sudan can copy several measures other countries take to fight Malaria, such as reducing or removing taxes and tariffs on mosquito nets and accessories.
Malaria takes its toll not only in lives lost, but also in medical costs, lost income, and reduced economic output. The annual direct and indirect costs of malaria in Africa are estimated to be more than US$2 billion, according to the WHO.
Partners in Sudan have re-committed to taking action to reduce the preventable impact of malaria on the population and ensure access to quality healthcare services for everyone in South Sudan.
At the conclusion of the three-day event, Vice President of South Sudan Hussein Abdelbagi Akol Agany announced the launch of the “Zero Malaria in South Sudan Starts With Me” campaign to add his voice and commitment towards a Malaria Free South Sudan.
The Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization and other partners convened the conference to call for multisectoral collaborative approaches towards targeted interventions to accelerate the reduction of malaria illness and death towards the larger goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage.
The conference offered a platform for the government to update stakeholders on efforts towards the delivery of healthcare services at all levels with a special focus on malaria interventions.
Also present at the conference were Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda to share their experience in the reduction and control of the malaria burden.
The conference also sought to formulate ways through which the government and partners can work together to strengthen the national and local institutions to address the key drivers of Malaria which includes flooding, food insecurity, population displacement due to conflict and climate change and develop capacities to deliver healthcare services to the population.
According to Severe Malaria Observatory, malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality by a significant margin, placing 100 per cent of the population at risk. Overall, South Sudan is among the 22 highest burden malaria countries in the world, accounting for 1.3 per cent of all global malaria cases and deaths in 2020, and 1.2 per cent of global malaria deaths. In 2020, 5.7 per cent of malaria cases in East and Southern Africa occurred in South Sudan. Between 2017 and 2020, the case burden for malaria increased slightly by 3.3 per cent, while deaths also increased slightly by 1.2 per cent.
“Malaria is our number one enemy. One person dies of malaria every hour in this country”, said George Otoo, Head RCO, Strategic Planner on behalf of Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.
“Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge globally. Last year, about 95 per cent of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO African Region, along with over 600,000 reported deaths”, said Dr Fabian Ndenzako, WHO South Sudan Representative.
Vice President of South Sudan, Hussein Abdelbagi Akol Agany said that Malaria is a life-threatening disease but it is preventable and curable.
“Malaria is preventable and treatable, and we cannot continue to lose lives needlessly”, said H.E. Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi Akol Agany.
Yolanda Awel Deng, Minister of Health, South Sudan pledged USD 500 000 from the 2022/2023 budget to fight malaria and urged partners for continued long-term sustainable support to implement targeted interventions towards reducing the burden of malaria.
Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, vice president for Services Cluster, said the government developed the national malaria strategic plan 2021-2025 with the ambitious goal of reducing malaria deaths by 80 percent by 2025.
“There is a need for continued commitment at all levels across all sectors to join hands in the fight against malaria,” Akol said when he closed a three-day national malaria conference in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
South Sudan can copy several measures taken by other countries to fight Malaria, For example, a number of countries have reduced or removed taxes and tariffs on mosquito nets and accessories, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. At the state level in Nigeria, governors are distributing bed nets at subsidized prices, supplying antimalarial drugs free of charge to children and pregnant women, and have allocated funds to the malaria budget. Private-sector banks and oil companies are making bed nets available on credit for their employees.
The WHO reports that in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, a community-based program is using more than 700 volunteers to educate and provide malaria medication to more than 1.7 million people. Over three years, there has been a 40 per cent drop in deaths of children under age five, and death rates from malaria are a third lower in villages participating in the program.
Although great progress has been made in malaria control, major challenges such as the inadequate supply of malaria commodities at the utilization level, fragility of health systems, flooding, population displacements and food and nutrition insecurity affects the implementations of key malaria control and prevention interventions.