Kwaku Agyemang-manu
Kwaku Agyemang-manu

Ghana has been selected together with Kenya and Malawi to take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot programme that would make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.

The RTSS vaccine was explained to have gone through more than 20 years of testing and Ghana had played a major role in its development, and it is aimed at providing a partial protection against malaria in young children.

Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the Minister of Health, revealed this in a speech read by his Deputy Mr Kingsley Aboagye Gyedu, at the commemoration of this year’s World Malaria Day in Accra on Monday.

The celebrations under the theme: “End Malaria for Good”, reflected the vision of a malaria free world set out in the Global Technical Strategy for the disease, (GTS 2016- 2030).

The Minister explained that the strategy aimed to drastically lower global malaria burden over the next 15 years, with the objectives and goals of the strategy being that following the great progress made under the Millennium Development Goals, it was important to build on this success and ‘end malaria for good’ under the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr Agyeman Manu said the Ministry had put together a team of experts to oversee to the preparation and implementation of the vaccine pilot programme, to ensure the best outcomes for the country and the world at large.

He explained that the pilot programme would assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children five to 17 months old, could be scaled up, and further look at the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTSS, its potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use.

He commended all the health partners whose support and collaboration towards the designing of effective strategies and intervention over the years, had contributed in the current reduction in the disease burden in Ghana.

Mr Agyeman Manu however said while international funding to fight malaria was decreasing, with the uncertainty of the extent of future funding support, a serious obligation remained ahead of the country to still save the lives of especially vulnerable group such as children and pregnant women from such a preventable and treatable disease.

He said the country had the science, human resource and tools to end malaria and its related deaths, which he described as unacceptable.

Government, he said, was committed to supporting every effort to mobilize the needed funding to implement the various proven strategies to end malaria for good.

He said the National Health Insurance Scheme would be reorganized to make it more efficient, with capacity to finance health services on timely basis, in a bid to achieve universal health coverage by all Ghanaians.

Dr Sally-Ann Ohene, representing the WHO and the development partners, commended Ghana and the entire African region for recording significant declines in malaria cases and deaths in the past few years.

She said while Ghana records a reduction in its malaria related deaths at all ages, from 3,882 in 2010 to 1,264 in 2016 translating to about 4.2 percent reduction, the African region also made tremendous progress in maintaining a downward trend by 23 per cent in new cases and reduced malaria related deaths by 31 per cent.

She, however, said although commendable progress had been made, malaria remained a major public health and development challenge in Africa as major gaps in programme coverage remained.

She said the pace of progress must speed up to reach global target of at least a 40 per cent reduction in malaria cases and deaths by 2020, compared to 2015 levels of the same by 23 per cent and 31 per cent drops respectively.

Dr Ohene said to speed up progress towards the global and regional targets, the WHO was calling on all affected countries and their development partners to boost investments in malaria prevention to propel countries along the path to elimination.

It further called on countries to implement concrete actions across sectors, strengthen cross-border collaboration and allocate adequate resources to end malaria.