Bisi was 7 months pregnant and feared she had been infected by the malaria disease. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, she no longer had access to Long Lasting Insecticide Nets and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) from malaria interventions in her community and could not protect herself from the dangers of malaria during pregnancy as the health systems had adapted in response to the coronavirus pandemic and malaria interventions which had provided her with control measures had reduced drastically. Unable to visit health centres due to restrictions in public transportation and low financial status, Bisi wondered how to protect herself and her unborn child from malaria infections during COVID-19.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening disease and the cause of many deaths worldwide, wheremost cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The malaria infection is transmitted from person to person through the Anopheles mosquito, and pregnant women and children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable groups affected by malaria.
Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2018, they accounted for 67% (272 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.
COVID19 and Malaria
Since the COVID19 pandemic, malaria responses have been affected worldwide. As pressure has been put on medical centres and personnel to control the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been the suspension of malaria -prevention campaigns like the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) in many African countries. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic does not prevent other deadly diseases like malaria disease from infecting millions of people, especially in Sub-saharan Africa. Suspending malaria interventions will leave the vulnerable population at great risk of malaria infection, especially pregnant women and children under- five years of age. Deaths due to malaria and its comorbidities, however, must continue to be prevented.
Stopping Malaria Infections
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets
Indoor residual spraying
However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there has since been a low response to the malaria disease and vulnerable groups have been left with lack of access to preventive health services
How malaria programs can curb malaria morbidity and mortality during these times
Balance malaria response with response to COVID-19
Work with government, stakeholders and COVID19 response team
Decide and agree on the best and safest way to distribute ITNs.
Continue and increase distribution of ITNs
Prioritize areas for ITN distribution based on malaria incidence rates and mortality
Ensure continuation of Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS)
CALL TO ACTION
National and local efforts should still be made to support and provide effective preventive interventions to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of malaria, while maintaining a safe environment for everyone.