Malaria, the bitter experiences, and the realities in Ghana

Many children in Ghana die before the age of five, due to complications from malaria, the story of Madam Yaa Rose, (not real name) a 45-year-old mother of three, at Sokode Juaso, a village near Koforidua is not different from the many untold bitter stories about malaria.

Narrating her story, Rose said years ago, her two-year-old daughter had a fever and as usual of many mothers, she gave the little one paracetamol and enema made of herbs she picked from her backyard continuously for two days, but on the third day, the fever was so high that her grandmother changed the herbs for the enema, explaining those herbs were effective against fever in children.

Some few moments after, her child began to convulse and was rushed to a nearby Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) who doubled as a herbalist in the village. After several herbal concoctions were smeared on the child, she began to cry and the convulsion stopped.

The TBA asked them to go home with several herbal mixtures for enema and bathing.

“Around midnight, the child’s temperature shot up again and she started convulsing again.”

Madam Rose said her brother who had returned from school suggested that the child might be suffering from malaria and advised that they sent her to the community health facility where she was given first aid and referred to the Regional Hospital for laboratory tests and treatment.

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After series of tests conducted on the little girl, the results indicated that the child had severe malaria, however, a few hours later her daughter sadly died from the complications.

Madam Rose shared her experience in an interview with the GNA, as part of a national media campaign for zero malaria in Ghana, under the auspices of the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) and the National Malaria Control Program (NMPC).

That experience, she said changed her perception of malaria. To her, malaria was not one of the dreaded diseases therefore, any feverish feeling was treated with a mixture of herbs and sometimes atributed to superstition.

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Until her daughter died, she had never bothered to use the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) distributed at the antenatal clinics saying, “but now, sleeping under the net is a ritual every night for everybody in my house and all our water storage containers are covered. We also clear the bushes around the house every week to prevent breeding points for mosquitoes”.

In sharing her story, Yaa Rose noted that she knew of other children who had died of malaria, but as typical in that community where everything was attributed to superstition, they refuse to accept that malaria was the cause of such deaths and therefore ignore the need to pay attention to the prevention measures.

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Interestingly, Yaa Rose is now a crusader supporting outreach community sensitisations on malaria in her community.

The above story represents the untold bitter experience of many mothers and individuals who had suffered the stint of malaria. It’s a disease that should not be taken lightly because of its dire consequences and all efforts must be made to achieve a Zero malaria society by sleeping under ITNs, keeping surroundings clean, and test before treatment to prevent developing drug resistance.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease, caused by the bite of an infected anopheles mosquito. It’s noted as one of the common diseases which symptoms are well known, yet, malaria kills and remains a global public health threat especially for Africa and Ghana is no exception.

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Unfortunately, many people do self-diagnose of malaria with so much ease and self-medicate, because of the perceived well-known symptoms and the perception that malaria is a mild disease that needs no stringent medical care to manage or prevent.

Malaria often tops recorded cases at health facilities in many Municipalities and Districts in the Eastern Region, according to statistics presented at health performance review meetings, yet it appears efforts to prevent malaria are not the best.

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For instance, the 0.5 percent facility of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) meant for malaria prevention is often not accessed by the District Health Management Teams for activities geared towards malaria prevention.

In an interview with a number of health experts on malaria, it was made clear that malaria may seem very common and uncomplicated to treat when diagnosed early, but its impact on the socio-economic development of societies and the people could not be taken for granted and efforts must be made to institute measures to reduce its prevalence to the lowest if not to eradicate it.

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A Public Health Nurse, Mrs Grace Otu, says because of the perception that malaria is a common disease, most people do not pay attention to its prevention measures as well as treatment especially keeping surroundings clean and sleeping under the insecticide-treated nets.

However, she explains that the mosquito nets offered the surest protection against malaria and since the malaria vaccines had not been rolled out throughout the entire country, the public must ensure constant use of the ITNs

She advised parents not to treat fever at home, but should send children to the nearest health post whenever they have temperature since the malaria parasite could be a threat to one’s life if not diagnosed early and given appropriate treatment to avoid any complications which could lead to death in children and even adults.

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She expressed the concern many people treat malaria without any test to confirm it or otherwise and indicated that such practice serves as a hindrance to achieving a malaria-free society.

Malaria wareness is high among the populace we have to use that knowledge to advance the cause to eradicate malaria from our homes, society by conscientiously practicing all the preventive measures and practice the test treat and track to ensure that the current drugs being used does not become resistant.

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