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China helps Uganda fight malaria as global funding shrinks

KAMPALA, Uganda | Xinhua | For Milly Nakazzi, an assistant nursing officer at Uganda’s Kiruddu National Referral Hospital, the fact that at least six of every 10 patients she treats have malaria is business as usual.

“The malaria rate is actually very high, not only here at Kiruddu but also at other health facilities across the country. Most affected are children and some pregnant mothers,” Nakazzi told Xinhua in a recent interview.

For the medical officer, although malaria is an easily preventable disease, its prevalence remains high in the country due to limited economic and health conditions in most areas.

As the world commemorates World Malaria Day on April 25, Uganda continues to struggle with the disease, accounting for 5.4 percent of global cases and ranking third among high-burden countries, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

Uganda also ranks as the seventh-highest contributor to malaria deaths globally (2.9 percent). World Health Organization figures indicate that the country records between 70,000 and 100,000 malaria deaths per year.

Despite this precarious situation, Uganda recently announced that international donors have warned that they will stop funding the country’s malaria response due to other global challenges such as conflict and climate change. According to the Ministry of Health, 85 percent of the country’s health budget for the 2024/2025 fiscal year is externally funded.

Despite these global complexities, Henry Kyobe, head of the Ministry of Health’s Incident Management Team, said China has not given up on helping Uganda combat malaria, adding that China has provided technical and medical assistance in the fight against the scourge.

“Recently, the government of China supported us with anti-malarial drugs that we are going to use at the community level in four high-burden districts,” Kyobe told Xinhua in a recent interview. “This support from the Chinese government is to stop or tackle malaria at the point of transmission and ensure that we reduce the burden on the household even before we go to the facilities,”

Jane Ruth Aceng

Receiving a shipment of 1.1 million U.S. dollars worth of anti-malarial drugs donated by the Chinese government earlier this month, Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng said Uganda last year experienced an upsurge in cases of malaria, which spread to more than half of its districts.

“As a country, we are at high risk of malaria due to our climatic conditions. Therefore, this generous donation of anti-malarial drugs will be helpful in the fight against malaria and in controlling the malaria epidemic, especially in high-risk areas,” Aceng said.

Kyobe explained that Uganda had long benefitted from the Chinese government in terms of medicine, research, and technical training. “You remember the ‘wonder drug’ we use to treat malaria, artemisinin. It is a drug discovered by the Chinese. It’s been 18 years since we stopped using chloroquine and started using the new drug.”

China has also helped Uganda in terms of research through the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital donated by the Asian country.

“We have also had many people go to China. Last year alone, almost 60 experts from the Ministry of Health trained at different institutes in China in malaria elimination, malaria case management, and different elements of malaria,” Kyobe said.

According to the Chinese embassy, China has sent 23 batches of medical teams with 218 doctors to Uganda since 1983. Since 2005, Chinese medical teams have treated more than 150,000 local patients, performed more than 4,000 surgeries, and rescued more than 600 critically ill patients.

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