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Opinions of Friday, 25 April 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Malaria Day

You “Party Animals”, let’s celebrate the Malaria Day with a Vision.

THE AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS went by with fanfare. And, it has been a year since we celebrated the Ghana@50. The next big occasion is Christmas, which is many months down the road. But, we don’t have to wait that long .There is one around the corner.

April 25th is observed as Africa Malaria Day, but please don’t call out from work yet. It’s not a national holiday.

In Ghana there is no such thing as “informal” or small, when it comes to celebrations. Even funerals have become more of entertainment for the living than mourning of the dead. I am told it is gradually becoming an old fashion to wail, cry or mourn the dead. People do not have tears for the dead anymore, such that there are pockets of professional mourners all over the country. This group of people is made of individuals who can induce tears so perfectly as if they are in real grief. All they do is to weep for the immediate family of the dead for a fee. Society is dynamic, isn’t it?

What about Valentine’s Day? We celebrate it as if the next day will never come. I know April 25th, is not our favorite national pastime, but add it to your celebration repertoire .You may have to celebrate it each year too. So let the party begin!

April 25th is Africa Malaria Day, commemorating a commitment made in year 2000 by African nations to work together to defeat the number one killer disease on the continent.

April 25th of this year is the eighth official anniversary of the Abuja agreement which among other things has as its primary objective to raise Public awareness of the malaria disease and take stock of progress made towards eradicating it.

Despite being a preventable and treatable disease, malaria –a mosquito-borne parasitic illness--- kills more than one million people each year in Africa. Its victims are mostly children, pregnant women and the poor.

The significance of this “occasion” is that Ghana should map out a national community-based efforts and campaign to manage and control the spread of this deadly disease.

Ghana is engulfed with plastic bags and other synthetic waste. Therefore, we can commit one day a week to perform what used to be called, “communal labor”, in our towns and villages, neighborhoods and streets. The purpose is to clean up our choked -gutters and get all sachet –water plastic waste collected. These have been identified as the major breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.

Another drawback is that living on products that don’t decomposed is making Ghana run out of landfills for our waste.

Speaking of plastic bags, why can we use more eco-friendly products, which are made out of paper (wood)? We have plenty of trees from which we can easily get the raw materials. There are also cups, napkins cutlery and plates and all kinds of food containers and servers that are made from corn, sugar cane or recycled papers... We can even be eco-friendly, flag-waving citizens at the end of our lives--- by using only wood for coffins for burial, instead of glass and other materials.

Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which is derived from petroleum. It’s estimated that we used 100million non-biodegradable plastic bags a year in Ghana. This is equivalent to 225,000 gallons of oil and 700 tons of landfills trash. The landfill sites are noted sanctuary for mosquitoes.

The use of biodegradable bags is nothing new. Some big cities in the U.S have completely banned the use of plastic bags in stores and shopping centers. So we can do the same.

Intensifying the use of bed nets, insecticides and encourage rapid diagnosis and treatment of the disease are some of the tools needed to fight the malaria war.

And, malaria management programs should be part of the National Health Insurance and National Security programs, because fighting malaria is a national issue which should be fought and seen as an “enemy”.

As we approach Africa Malaria Day, let’s not just devote one day to talk about it, instead, let us drum up the awareness and fight against this killer disease on continued basis. Our efforts should be an ongoing one because malaria is a socio-economic disease. It should be also noted that we can’t fight malaria without fighting poverty. The effort should go hand in hand.

Undoubtedly, malaria disrupts not only the families and communities, but also the entire growth and development of the country. It slows development, because it diverts development capital to finance healthcare. It also costs the nation enormous lost of man hours. Malaria is the cause of too many funerals and increase in the number of widows, widowers and orphans.

The fight against this menace should not be left in the hands of the government and its agencies alone. There is the need for a more coordinated approach where every member of the community will get on board to part- take of the fight.

The philosophy of Malaria Day should be everyday commitment, focused on fighting this ancient disease—which has become a modern –day health issue. Together it can be defeated.

Yes, I know an article like this doesn’t make the headlines or get attention on the web, because it doesn’t have the political bite. Nonetheless, let’s celebrate this occasion with a purpose and vision.

Have a happy Malaria Day and more human habitable environment instead of that which is friendlier to mosquitoes,

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.