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Malaria Control in Northern Ghana: Are We Doing Enough?

Malaria continues to be a major global health concern, with Africa bearing the brunt of its impact. Despite significant efforts to control and prevent the disease, malaria cases and deaths persist, especially in malaria-endemic regions like Northern Ghana. In a recent study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Ghana, the University of Copenhagen, and the Ghana Health Service, they sought to understand the malaria situation among Ghanaian children in three Municipalities in Northern Ghana. The study sheds light on the prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum infection, the level of naturally acquired immunity to malaria antigens, and the effectiveness of malaria control measures in the region.

Methods and Findings

The research team conducted a cross-sectional household survey involving 394 households in 13 rural communities in the Kumbungu, Nanton, and Tolon Municipalities of the Northern Region. The study assessed malaria knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) and determine malaria prevalence among children aged 1 to 17 years in these households.

The results were concerning, as the study revealed a high P. falciparum infection rate and frequency of malaria in the studied areas. Moreover, these infections exhibited significant age-dependent and inter-community differences. To understand the immunity aspect, the researchers assessed plasma levels of IgG specific for crude P. falciparum antigen and four recombinant malaria antigens. The differences in these plasma levels further reflected variations in acquired immunity among the children in different regions.

Despite efforts to implement preventive measures, the findings showed that malaria control in the region remained inadequate. The use of bed nets and indoor insecticide sprays/coils was reported by over 60% of households, but other preventive measures, such as bush clearing around homes, were less common (14%). In terms of treatment, community health centres were the preferred option for malaria treatment (88% of households). However, a significant proportion (66%) relied on over-the-counter drug stores for antimalarials.

Implications and Conclusion

The study’s outcomes underscore the urgent need for more effective malaria control and prevention measures in Northern Ghana. Despite the implementation of Seasonal Malaria Chemotherapy (SMC) by the Ghana Health Service, the prevalence of malaria remains high among children in the region.

The researchers suggest that improving SMC compliance and enhancing preventive and treatment practices can be pivotal in the fight against malaria in Northern Ghana. By doing so, these “low-hanging fruits” could help reduce the disease burden and improve the overall health and well-being of the affected communities.

The battle against malaria is far from over, but studies like this provide valuable insights that can guide policymakers and healthcare providers in formulating targeted interventions. Collaborative efforts between local communities, healthcare authorities, and researchers are essential to design and implement effective strategies that can make a real difference in the fight against malaria.

As we continue the fight against this deadly disease, let us remember that investing in malaria control is investing in the health and future of Ghanaian children, paving the way for a healthier and more prosperous nation. Together, we can turn the tide against malaria and create a safer, malaria-free future for all.

Zakaria Seidu, Helena Lamptey, Mary Lopez-Perez, Nora Owusuwaa Whittle, Stephen Kwesi Oppong, Eric Kyei-Baafour, Pobee Abigail Naa Adjorkor, George Obeng Adjei, Lars Hviid, Michael F. Ofori. (2023).

Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.parepi.2023.e00317.


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