GUYANESE are not strangers to malaria, particularly citizens who work or reside in hinterland regions or communities.
The mining sector is particularly hard-hit. Malaria – a potentially fatal disease – affects almost every person working or living in Guyana’s hinterland. The importance of fighting and defeating the disease, therefore, is obvious.
In 2005, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) adopted resolution CD46.R13, which articulated the position to reduce the number of malaria cases in the Americas by 75 per cent by 2015. Guyana is one of 18 countries in the Americas that is committed to the elimination of malaria.
Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. When an infected person is bitten by a mosquito, the insect becomes infected. When the mosquito bites another person, the infection is passed on to the new victim. Malaria may be caused my many organisms, some more dangerous than others. Malaria is caused by micro-organisms that attack the body’s systems, often resulting in death, after causing fever, vomiting, tiredness, aches, and great discomfort, and disability.
To date, in Guyana, the fight against malaria continues to be successful under the guidance of the APNU+AFC administration.
Guyana had embarked on the National Plan of Action for Malaria Elimination in 2016. The plan, which extends to 2020, is intended to eradicate malaria within Guyana’s borders. At the end of 2020, the success of the initiative will be assessed and a new plan, or extension of the existing plan, will be considered.
According to the World health Organisation (WHO), due to the efforts of government, Guyana has recently succeeded in reducing the incidence of the disease by far more than the benchmark 50 per cent — a remarkable achievement.
Dr. William Adu-Krow of PAHO/WHO, an expert in tropical diseases, said that it is possible for Guyana to completely eradicate malaria. He said, amazingly, “We see Guyanese cases falling from 45,000 every year to only 11,000.”
The current administration has said, “The government of Guyana remains committed to the continued provision of the required resources, while counting on support from key partners such as the Global Fund, USAID, and PAHO/WHO.”
Government has stated that Guyana has made great strides in the fight against malaria, including, according to the Ministry of Public Health, “Improved surveillance efforts through revised data-collection tools, with emphasis on the timeliness of reporting.”
Also, microscopy training for hinterland health workers coordinated by the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, has had a major positive effect on the national statistics. It should be noted that such statistics are monitored and verified by the WHO and other international organisations.
While there is no doubt that Guyana has made significant strides in the fight against malaria, international opinion is of significance. And Guyana remains on the list of 21 countries considered by the United Nations, to have malaria endemic to its population.
As such, Guyanese must cooperate with the efforts of the national health authorities to eliminate this disease. We must support their efforts; we must be proactive and vigilant in defence of our health in every aspect of our lives.