The seasonal malaria chemopreventive (SMC) programme was officially launched on October 26 at an event in Moroto district, within the Karamoja sub region. The event was attended by Uganda’s State Minister for Health – General Duties, Anifa Kawooya, Health Minstry Permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwine and the Coordinator of Funds Coordination Unit of the Global Fund grants Mr Johnson Mutesigensi among other officials.
Malaria is the leading cause of death and illness in Uganda, with children under five contributing heavily to the high incidence rates.
Karamoja has an estimated population of 1.4 million, and it has the highest malaria incidence in the country – ranging between 250 and 450 per 1,000 people, as compared with the national incidence rate of 30 per 1,000 people.
Speaking at the event at the launch event at Boma grounds in Moroto District, Ms Hanifa Kawooya, called for more funding for the programme by the government and other development partners.
She said that SMC has been found to be highly acceptable by stakeholders at all levels, including policymakers, implementers, caregivers, and children.
The director of Moroto Regional Referral Hospital, Dr. Stephen Mpade said malaria cases among children have greatly reduced in the two districts of Napak and Moroto where the SMC program was piloted last year.
The assistant commissioner for Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Jimmy Opigo said most of the children who get malaria no longer present severe cases and the number of infections has declined.
Relatedly, the National Malaria Control Division (NMCD) in partnership with the Malaria Consortium has been researching the effectiveness of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention in the region, through a series of trials, to protect children aged 3-59 months when they are most at risk.
As part of the second phase of the research, a randomized-controlled trial will be conducted to confirm the effectiveness of SMC. This will also assess the chemoprevention efficacy of the SMC medicines and monitoring molecular markers for resistance to them. This work continues across five districts in Karamoja. Results from this phase of the study are expected in 2023.
The government aims to reduce malaria infections by 50 percent and mortality by 75 percent by 2025 while the Global Fund has a bold ambition of eradicating malaria by 2030.