The Paediatric Society of Ghana (PSG), has urged mothers to treat malaria infection in children under five after testing to prevent disability.
Dr Cyprian Birmeh, Chairman of the Greater Accra Paediatric Society, said malaria in children could affect all organs of the body including the brain known as cerebral malaria, which could result in disability.
Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological complication of infection with plasmodium falciparum. With over 575,000 cases annually, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected.
Dr Birmeh who made this known during an outreach programme to commemorate the World Malaria Day celebration in Accra said severe malaria could also cause kidney failure, which was also a form of disability, and advised parents not to joke with it.
He noted that about 77 per cent of all malaria-related diseases occurred in children under five years because their immunity was weak compared to adults.
“It is for these reasons we are targeting mothers to educate them on prevention of malaria rather than treating it after being infected,” Dr Birmeh stated.
He noted that the insecticide-treated bed net had proven to be very useful in controlling and preventing mosquito bites and urged that people, especially mothers, must make good use of it.
The Chairman advised mothers to take their children for malaria vaccination, especially in districts where the vaccines were available to fight against the disease.
The exercise, organised by the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate in collaboration with the Paediatric Society of Ghana saw people of Ga North Constituency screened for malaria, distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr Charity Sarpong, the Regional Director of Health Services, speaking at the event said malaria remained a major public health threat and one of the leading causes of morbidity in pregnant women and children under five.
She said Ghana was among the top 15 countries with a high burden of malaria in the world, adding that, in Greater Accra Region, the Ga North district was the most endemic district with 14, 895 cases representing 20 per cent of all outpatients department cases in the region in 2021.
Dr Sarpong noted that despite these challenges among others some successes have been made so far.
The Director noted that with interventions in place, so far, the country had been able to increase the testing rate from 95.1 per cent in 2020 to 97.08 per cent in 2021, malaria in pregnancy reduced from 1.5 per cent in 2020 to 1.1 per cent in 2021, IPT3 coverage improved from 48.4 per cent in 2020 to 59 per cent in 2021.
The country has also been able to reduce untested malaria cases from 3.6 per cent in 2020 to 1.9 per cent in 2021, LLIN issued to registrants at the antenatal clinic improved by three per cent over the previous year adding that, as significant as these achievements were, more needed to be done to attain zero malaria, she stated
The Regional Director called for the support of all to fight against malaria by not-self-medicating and reporting to the nearest health facilities when they feel unwell and suspect it may be malaria.
Health professionals must ensure that all patients suspected of having malaria were first tested using RDT, and that only positive cases should be treated with an effective anti-malaria medicine with the guidelines and protocols, Dr Charity stated.
She urged all to endeavour to use a combination of the available interventions at any point in time to stay on track for elimination.
Dr Maame Yaa Nhyira Essel, the Municipal Director of Health Services, Ga North, appealed to the public to cooperate with health officials to make the policy implementation easier.
Dr Essel mentioned that pregnancies were likely to have more severe complications resulting from malaria and advised pregnant women to take their SP to reduce the risk of malaria in pregnancy.
Nii Kortey Boye II, Ofankor Mantse, expressed gratitude to the health officials for bringing the health screening exercise to their doorsteps and admonished the people to adhere to malaria education given to reduce the number of cases in the community.
He advised the people to report to health facilities early for testing when they have symptoms of malaria to commence early treatment.