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Health News of Friday, 10 June 2011

Source: Eunice Adjei"

Ghana Health Service/National Malaria Control

PROGRAMME RECEIVES A GLOBAL AWARD FOR INNOVATIVE MEANS OF PROMOTING ACCESS TO TREATED NETS.

The National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) since its establishment in the 1950s has been making tremendous progress in the control of malaria in the country. As part of efforts in controlling the disease, the NMCP aims at reducing malaria disease burden till it ceases to be a disease of public health significance. It has long been recognized that malaria cannot be controlled by the health sector alone nor can a single intervention help achieve results. It is therefore necessary that partnership among key stakeholders is encouraged and multiple interventions adopted for the fight against the disease.

In view of this, a multi-interventional strategy has been developed to help in controlling malaria. Among the proven interventions being pursued is the promotion of ownership and use of Insecticide Treated Nets.

Until recently the strategy for net distribution was mainly through static point delivery at health facilities and occasional mass distribution through health campaigns. Surveys conducted on net ownership and usage in Ghana revealed a rather discouraging fact that people who had them were not using them for various reasons, including difficulty in hanging them over the sleeping places. As a mitigating measure, the NMCP/GHS took a bold decision to modify the distribution strategy and adopted a campaign style dubbed “Door-to-Door Distribution and Hang Up.” With the support of other partners and stakeholders, this innovate approach was initially implemented in the Northern Region targeting households with children under five years and pregnant women. An evaluation conducted six months afterwards showed dramatic increase in net ownership and usage among the target population.

The Programme in February, 2011 received two awards at the Alliance for Malaria Prevention annual partners meeting held in Geneva. The awards were in recognition of Ghana’s pioneering role in the door-to-door LLIN distribution and hang up and also for being the first country to distribute nets in a measles campaign. The meeting brought together people working in all aspects of malaria control; including donors, academia, manufacturers of ITNs, implementing partners, National Malaria Control Programme Managers, scientists, researchers, national and international advocates and policy advisors to discuss what more could be done to help eliminate malaria. The Alliance for Malaria Prevention is a partnership which comprises over 30 partners, including government agencies, private sector businesses, public sector organizations faith-based organizations, and humanitarian organizations. Each of these partners provides an invaluable contribution to the partnership in supporting countries to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals reach the through increased LLIN ownership and use.

Ghana’s achievement in the door to door and hang-up campaign was made possible through the collaborative efforts of various partners in Malaria Control in Ghana including Regional and District Health Administrations, Regional Coordinating Councils, District/Municipal/Metropolitan Authorities, USAID, ADDRO, Nets For Life, PMI, ProMPT-Ghana, WHO, DELIVER and UNICEF among others who contributed financial, technical and logistic support for the entire exercise.

Following the successful implementation in the Northern Region, a nationwide implementation plan has been drawn to ensure that the entire country is covered with ITNs targeting every two persons with one net in conformity with what is called “universal coverage.” If this is achieved then the country is likely to make a striking impact in malaria control. Ten out of the twenty-one districts in the Eastern Region were covered in November/December last year and the remaining eleven districts are expected to be covered by June this year.

With the distribution and hang up campaign, the NMCP hopes to remove all possible barriers to net usage in the country. This will be supported by education on proper management of the nets. By the end of 2011, eight regions; Eastern, Volta, Central, Western, Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Ashanti would have been covered as part of the Programme’s objective to achieve universal LLIN coverage by 2015.

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