In 2017, Uganda had the 7th highest number of malaria cases in Africa, with 7.7 million cases, and had the 10th highest number of annual malarial deaths in 2016, with 12,060 deaths.
Jimmy Opigo, the program manager of the Malaria Control Program recently disclosed that as per the recent statistics, 14 people die daily from malaria.
Although the entire population is at risk, the most vulnerable groups that are affected by malaria in Uganda are the pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.
It should be noted that Malaria in pregnancy poses a great health concern because of its maternal and foetal effects such as maternal anaemia, frequent febrile episodes, miscarriages, stillbirths, pre-term deliveries, intra-uterine growth retardation and low birth weights, as noted by the National Malaria Control Programme.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that apart from expectant mothers, patients with HIV/AIDS, non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers are at great risk of contracting malaria.
Progress in treating malaria among pregnant women
The government, through the Ministry of Health has been carrying out various interventions to end malaria in pregnant women. One of the major efforts employed is;
Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnancy (IPTp)
This entails giving anti malarial medicine to pregnant women during the routine antenatal visits.
The government intends to have 60% of all pregnant women receiving two doses of Sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as IPTp in their second and third trimesters with at least 80% of pregnant women accessing quality case management.
Efforts to see at least 60% of the pregnant mothers using Insecticide Treated Nets has been employed with all expectant mothers receiving treated mosquito nets from the health facilities where they do their antenatal visits.
These services are coordinated through the reproductive health division of the Ministry of Health.
The numbers of LLINs distributed through the Antenatal Care sector increased from 0 in 2010 to 504,715 in 2011 then to 641,799 in 2012. However in 2013, there was a sharp decline to 107,108 according to the Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan (UMRSP) of 2014-2020.
It should be noted that in 2000, the government waived import taxes and tariffs on mosquito nets and netting materials to promote access to and use of the nets.
This gave rise to the Inter Agency Coordination Committee for Malaria (ICCM) in 2002. This was to address the dual challenge of rapidly scaling up coverage of Insecticide Treated Nets(ITNs) among pregnant women and children under five years of age, and support the development of a sustainable, commercial ITN market in Uganda.
The proportion of pregnant women who slept under an Insecticide Treated Net (ITN) modestly increased from 44% in 2010 to 47% in 2011.
Current Progress Status
The current policy of preventing malaria in pregnant women is by using insecticide treated mosquito nets and intermittent preventive treatment with two doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine.
The Ministry of Health is distributing the nets to every household country wide. This is being done in phases. So far, two waves have been concluded covering Eastern and Western Uganda.
People in Kampala and Wakiso expect to receive treated mosquito nets this October as per the Ministry of Health schedule.
A malaria-prevention advice from an expectant mother
Juliet Namatovu, 39, is a mother of 3 and she is expecting a child. She said that her children were being disturbed by malaria until she started prioritising sleeping under the treated mosquito nets.
“Because I stay in Bwaise, mosquitoes can’t be dodged easily. There is always too much water even on sunny days. Before, we could not sleep in mosquito nets and I would spend a lot of money in treating my malaria infected children,” she said.
Namatovu was advised by the health worker to use treated mosquito nets.
“Now that all my children sleep under the net, I have no worries at all,” she said adding, “it’s just an everyday practice you take on routinely and with time, it becomes ‘a good habit’. I advise everyone out there to take charge and sleep under a treated mosquito net.”