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Rwanda records steep drop in malaria cases

A combination of more use of mosquito-treated nets and indoor residual spraying preventive interventions has seen Rwanda slash malaria cases by 71 per cent between 2016 and 2021.

By Nasra Bishumba

Indoor residual spraying is an exercise that involves spraying households with an aim to eliminate malaria-causing mosquitoes.

Speaking exclusively to this publication on Wednesday, July 21, the Head of Malaria and other Parasitic Infections Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, said that the drop in the cases can mainly be attributed to massive campaigns run in 2017 and 2020 that saw mosquito treated bed nets distributed in all the country’s 30 districts.

“We compare years and that’s how we track the trends. In 2016/2017, we had 4.8 million malaria cases. In 2019/20, the number moved down to 2.5 million. However, tentative numbers that we have for 20/21 indicate that the number has since moved down to 1.4 million cases,” he said.

The number of severe malaria cases has also improved.

In 2015/16, Rwanda recorded 18,000 severe malaria cases.

However, in the 2019/20 fiscal year, the number is around 4,000 cases and for 2020/21, only 2,500 cases were recorded.

The data on malaria deaths will be available in August this year.

The interventions

Mbituyumuremyi pointed out that in high burden areas where mosquitoes were being resistant, new generation mosquito nets were introduced and they have been more effective than the standard ones.

“The standard nets are being used in areas where the mosquitoes are easier to deal with. In high burden areas like Kigali city, Gicumbi, Rulindo, Muhanga, Karongi, Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts, we opted for high generation nets and they have been effective,” he said.

Besides mosquito nets, Mbituyumuremyi said that indoor residual spraying in 12 high risk districts has continued consistently since 2018 as compared to the previous years where spraying was irregular.

He reminded that they are still using drones to spray some areas in Kigali but this is done on a small scale.

Community health workers hailed

He pointed out that with support from its partners, the government has also invested in social behaviour change communication strategies through civil society organisations currently deployed in all 30 districts.

The road to beating malaria also saw community leaders being involved where at least six staff from each district received training on detecting mosquito breeding sites on community level before taking it down to household level.

However, Mbituyumuremyi hailed community health workers who through Home Based Management of Malaria (HBM) undertake home visits to look at these sites at household level and commended them for playing a significant role in reducing the number of people who get infected with malaria.

“Community health workers test and offer treatment early enough and this means that they are absorbing 54 per cent of the national malaria cases and subsequently cutting the number of people who are at a high risk of losing their lives,” he said.

Funds sourcing continues

The government recently received a $53m grant from the Global Fund as a contribution towards a whopping Rwf295bn ($280 million) required in malaria prevention and treatment efforts running between 2020 and 2024.

The Global Fund package will mainly go to indoor residual spraying in six districts for the next three years, procurement of treated mosquito nets and procurement of malaria commodities which include testing kits, malaria drugs, and supporting community health workers,” he said.

No details are currently available of the total amount that has so far been received from the commitments.

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