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Climate change driving surge in malaria cases- Aceng

FILE PHOTO: Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has attributed the upsurge in cases of malaria in Uganda to Climate Change patterns characterized by prolonged intermittent rains in various parts of the country.

The disease is most prevalent in tropical climates, where the rainfall is sufficient for mosquitoes to breed and the temperatures are conducive for both the mosquito and protozoa to live. More rainfall also increases the possible breeding grounds for mosquito larvae, eventually resulting in more vectors to spread the disease.

Records indicate that the number of Malaria cases has increased by over 400,000 this year, from 1 million cases recorded by June 2018, to 1.4 million Cases by June 2019. The surge affected at least 65 districts in the areas of West Nile, Acholi, parts of Lango, Busoga, Bunyoro, Karamoja, parts of Buganda, the districts of Amuria, Kumi and Soroti in Teso, and the districts of Kamwenge, Kisoro and Kanungu in Western Uganda.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng says that although the number is still below those recorded in the same period in the 2016 and 2017, the record is a threat to recent gains in eradicating malaria, a life-threatening illness that kills more than 400,000 people every year.

She says that the increase in malaria prevalence has been caused by a combination of climate change factors, reduced ownership of mosquito nets, refugee influx in certain regions, and movement of populations from high burden areas to low burden areas.

However, evidence gathered by the Ministry of Health Surveillance teams shows that 85 per cent of the people living in Kampala who tested positive for malaria had travelled to a district outside the city.

Up to 28, 086 cases of malaria have been reported in Kampala since June, whereby 60 per cent were severe. While the figures for the positive cases are slightly similar than last year at 27,159 Aceng said 920 of the cases were admissions. 6 people are currently succumbing to malaria per month in Kampala.

Aceng says that unlike other areas in the country, people in areas with low malaria such as Kampala and Kigezi region, where parasite prevalence is less than 1 per cent, are prone to severe malaria due to low immunity.

To her, the challenge that comes with the surge, especially for Kampala, is because of the fact that many tend to buy drugs over the counter without requisite tests when they experience malaria-like symptoms such as chills, headaches, vomiting, sweating and loss of appetite.

As a result of self-medication, first-line drugs are failing to treat some people because they have exposed themselves to sub-optimal doses.

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