Guyana taking community-based approach to eliminate malaria by 2030

A new approach will be taken to fight malaria in Guyana even as local health authorities are working hard to eradicate the mosquito borne illness by 2030.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony on Monday joined health regional officials and health personnel in Bartica, Region Seven for an activity to observe World Malaria Day 2022 under the theme “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives.” 

Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony delivering his feature address at the observance of Malaria Day 2022 in Bartica.

Dr. Anthony explained that the new approach will see involvement at the community level, including early diagnosis and early treatment, prevention strategies and surveillance measures.

“This new approach of getting down to the community level is something that we feel holds a lot of promise, and that can actually make a change,” the health minister said, noting that it has been tried and proven to work in other countries.

Minister Anthony receives malaria treatment envelopes from the Breakthrough Action Guyana/USAID.

He said advocates are needed as each person has a role to play in eradicating the disease.

“There is always a need for us to have advocates, for us to have people who will go out there and enthuse the community, get them involved, get them worked up about this, that we want to make this change, we want to see things happening in our community. We want to eliminate malaria, and those persons we want to see as our ‘Champions for malaria in the community’,” the health minister said.

He noted that while the health ministry has a national strategy to tackle the disease there will be regional interventions in places most affected such as Regions One, Seven, Eight, Nine and some parts of Region 10.

Cutting of the ribbon for the new Maternal and Child Health clinic at Bartica.

“We have updated our protocols, we have produced newer guidelines and we have distributed that and we are constantly upgrading the skills of our workforce to make sure that they understand how to do this, and what to do and to do it better, so that’s an ongoing process,” Dr. Anthony said.

Statistics from 2021 show that approximately 20,000 people tested positive for malaria in Guyana.

Health Minister and Regional officials at the observance of Malaria Day 2022.

“So that’s a lot of people, and this is despite all the efforts that we have had, going on across the different regions, we are still getting a lot of cases,” Dr. Anthony said, noting that this is why there was an analysis of how things were done and effort made to do things differently, especially with the ministry’s target of eliminating the disease by 2030.

Local health authorities have also collaborated with international agencies in its fight against the deadly disease, and have been working with Harvard University to track whether there are mutations in the parasite, to observe if it is developing resistance to the current medication.

Health workers at the Malaria day activity.

There is also collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which uses techniques to sterilise the mosquitoes, which causes a collapse in the mosquito population.

Another innovation is working with the University of Oxford, South Africa, using a micro-organism that would help interrupt the life cycle within the mosquito itself.

The Ministry of Health has acquired a gene sequencing machine while staff were sent overseas for training to do gene sequencing.

Dr. Anthony also noted that while thousands of insecticide impregnated bed nets were distributed to residents in high-risk areas, these are not being used.

Region Seven is an endemic region for malaria in Guyana.

Impregnated Mosquito nets on display.

Also, while in Bartica, the health minister commissioned a new Maternal and Child Health Facility and launched Vaccination Week in the Americas.

Guyana has been doing well in general vaccination of infants to  years of age.

However, Dr. Anthony noted that there needs to be improvement in the number of persons who are vaccinated against Covid and taking the booster shots.

He noted that Region Seven is one of the regions where persons have been hesitant to take their Covid-19 vaccines.