Reducing Malaria and Malnutrition in Priority Populations

Malaria and malnutrition have been identified as major causes of morbidity and mortality of women and children in Ghana (Ehrhardt et al, 2006). Malaria continues to be the leading cause of hospital attendance across the country. 2015 estimates by UNICEF suggest that only 47% of Ghanaian children sleep under mosquito nets and 68% of households have at least one insecticide treated net in the country. 2015 figures from National Malaria Control Programme of the Ghana Health Service show that about 8 million cases of malaria were reported to the health facilities nationwide.

Malaria still continues to be the health issue of greatest concern to most Ghanaians and the highest cause of government health expenditure. It is reported that three Ghanaian children die each day from malaria. However the incidence of malaria is not uniformly spread nationwide. Recent data suggest that certain regions like the Northern, Upper West, Western and Central have high incidence rates in the regions of 37% to 40%. Whereas Upper East and Greater Accra have incidence rates below 12%.

Furthermore within each region, pockets of localities and suburbs are identified to contribute the most of cases to the region’s caseload. Also, it is universally acknowledged that pregnant women and children under the age of five years are most susceptible to malaria. The World Health Organization states that Malaria infection during pregnancy is a significant public health problem with substantial risks for the pregnant woman, her fetus, and the newborn child.

The available facts imply that an outreach programme targeted at those particular suburbs and communities of people that are disproportionally affected by malaria would go a long way to reducing the burden of malaria in the country. Though gains have been made by interventions in nutrition in recent years, the situation still leaves much to be desired. In a recent survey, the Ghana Health Service identified as many as 10,000 “severely malnourished” children in five regions of the country; Central, Eastern, Northern, Upper West and Upper East. This figure is believed to be as much as 50,000 nationwide.

The most recent Ghana Demographic and Health Survey states that 66% of Ghanaian children under 5 years of age suffer from anemia. A significant number of Ghanaian children are malnourished. The statistics that about 66% of children under 5 have not been fed the they way ought to and thus anaemia (a reduction in the amount red blood cells or a lowered ability of the blood to carry oxygen) is very common. Children with anaemia also easily get sick with other diseases especially malaria.

According to UNICEF, 1 in 5 children in Ghana are stunted, a condition derived from poor nutrition, and in the northern region about 37% of children are stunted due to childhood malnutrition thus affecting the health of children. Poor nutrition in children is a reflection of the family’s general health awareness and income. It is evident that community level advocacy, mobilization and behaviour change communication is critically needed to help bridge the nutrition gap.

To effectively tackle the current trend and accelerate the reduction of malaria and malnutrition in priority populations, Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation aims to;
• Reduce by a third, the proportion of both malnourished and severely malnourished children under 5 years of age from 2016 levels by the end of 2020
• Reduce by half, the incidence of malaria in pregnant women and children under age five from selected communities and suburbs by end of 2020
• Support the expansion of CHPS as a channel to sustaining gains in malaria control in pregnant women and children, by constructing and equipping twelve CHPS compounds across Ghana and support them to become fully functional by end of 2020.