Defeating Malaria - Vaccine breakthrough

A long-awaited breakthrough in the fight against malaria finally became a reality when on 6th October 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) unveiled and recommended a new vaccine, RTS,S/AS01 that has captured the attention of child-health professionals and parents alike. The new vaccine seems to be the missing part of a jigsaw in the fight against malaria that cause the deaths of over a quarter of a million at-risk children between 0-5 every year, especially in sub-Sahara Africa and elsewhere.

We at Children of Potentials are extremely happy for the turn of event. Over the years, we have held the view and have witnessed the negative impact that malaria has had on the health and education of young children. Malaria diseases have seen school attendance affected for many children in the communities we operate. It is our hope that the development and rollout of the new vaccine – in combination with other similar interventions – will go a long way in achieving our objective of improving educational and health outcomes for children and young people.

We say kudus to all the collaborators involved, especially piloting/research countries of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, as well as the technical and financial support of others.

Ghana Update: Over half of pupils can’t read

A recent research conducted across the country in various schools particularly at the lower primary levels indicates that about 51 percent of the pupils cannot read in both English language and the other local dialects. Only two percent of the research respondents can, however, read to understand and answer questions from passages in textbooks.

The Ashanti Regional Director of Education, Mary Owusu Achiaw made this known at a durbar at Sanso in the Obuasi Municipality of the Ashanti Region. She highlighted some factors identified by the Ghana Education Service through its periodic monitoring to be accounting for the poor reading habits of pupils. These include the non-motivating attitude of teachers towards reading as well as the limited reading periods on timetables of schools.

Another factor observed with worry by the Regional Director of Education is the hoarding of reading books donated by international donor agencies such as the UK Department for International Department, by the authorities of some schools.
This, she noted, had caused such agencies and organizations to withdraw support in this direction. Mrs. Owusu Achiaw, therefore, admonished authorities of schools exhibiting such behavior to put an immediate stop to it. She again emphasized the need for teachers to adopt new techniques to motivate students to read especially at the primary level.

A retired educationist, Mrs. Sophia Awortwe noted that through continuous reading, pupils would become knowledgeable on a wide range of relevant issues to manage for instance the environment, which according to her is gradually losing its richness due to illegal human activities and the effects of climate change. She, therefore, advised parents and guardians to encourage their wards to read books regularly when at home instead of allowing them to watch television programs which have no good moral values.


January 2016 Source: GBC

Under-five malaria fatality rate drops in Ghana

The rate of fatality of malaria cases among Ghanaian children under-five years of age has dropped from 14.4 per cent in 2000 to 0.6 per cent in 2012.

This means that, for every 1,000 children under-five admitted to hospital with malaria, 850 survived in 2000 while in 2012, the number of those who survived was 994.

Dr. Felicia Amoo-Sakyi, Malaria Case Management Programme Officer for the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) disclosed this at a press briefing ahead of the National World Malaria Day celebration scheduled to take place in Wa on Friday.

A new malaria control intervention known as the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) would be launched by the Ministry of Health (MoH)/Ghana Health Service (GHS) as part of the celebration of the day.

The SMC, formerly known as Intermittent Preventive Treatment, involves intermittent administration of full treatment courses of an anti-malaria medicine during the malaria season to prevent malaria illness.

Targeted at the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, the SMC’s objective is to provide protection against clinical illness throughout the period of malaria risk.

Dr. Amoo-Sakyi said issues considered in deciding to adopt the SMC intervention include the seasonality of malaria transmission and rainfall patterns, the incidence of malaria and the potential delivery mechanisms among others.

She said the target areas for implementation were areas where transmission was more than 60 per cent of clinical malaria cases occurring during a short period of about four months.

She said the clinical attack rate of malaria was greater than 0.1 per cent attack per transmission season in the target age group.

Dr. Amoo-Sakyi noted that the intervention covered children between the ages of 3-59 months and that, during the campaign, there shall be free distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLITNs) at primary schools and health centers among others.

She said there would also be a scaling up of parasite-based diagnosis to all age groups at all levels countrywide, using the Test, Treat and Track initiative (the T3 Formula).

Dr. Amoo-Sakyi said defeating malaria requires the engagement of a number of sectors outside health, including finance, education, defense, environment, mining industry, tourism, local government and the media.

Source: GNA

Students join the fight against malaria

Students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) have joined forces with the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) to eliminate malaria in Ghana.

The move is to widen the platform for advocacy communication towards the elimination of the disease.

A seven-member student executive to steer the affairs of the AMMREN -GIJ chapter has, therefore, been sworn in to serve as agents of change in the malaria elimination efforts.


Speaking at the inauguration of the executive in Accra, a Programme Officer of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Ms Vivian Aubyn, said in spite of the gains made in the efforts to eliminate malaria from Ghana, illnesses due to malaria were still high.

According to her, rural, hard to reach areas, residents of urban poor communities and people in the northern sector of the country are the most affected.

She said the NMCP had collaborated with stakeholders to draft a new strategic plan, starting from 2014 to 2018, that would focus on accelerated control and concentrate efforts in the high transmission areas in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions.

Net distribution

So far, Ms Aubyn said bed nets distribution in antenatal clinics and schools (targeting pregnant women and children less than five years) had increased coverage and helped in preventing malaria.

“I must say that the distribution of nets in schools started in July last year and has been embraced by teachers, communities and schoolchildren to the extent that the NMCP office has been inundated with telephone calls,” she said.

She pointed out that the era when every fever case was treated as malaria was over and that the new policy was to diagnose all suspected cases under the test, treat and track strategy.

“This requires all suspected fever cases to be tested and only cases with positive malaria test results treated with anti-malaria drugs,” he said.

Behavioural in School change

A researcher at the Dodowa Health Research Centre, Dr Alberta Amu, advocated the accelerated distribution of insecticide treated nets to all age groups to achieve universal access.

She also said there was the need for behavioural change communication strategies which would educate individuals on the need to sleep in treated nets to prevent malaria.

“Malaria elimination in Ghana is feasible and doable. It would require team effort and long-term consistent commitment from all stakeholders,” Dr Amu said.


The Executive Secretary of AMMREN, Mrs Charity Binka, stated that malaria was a major public health problem in Ghana and a development issue.

She said the AMMREN-GIJ chapter sought to attract young journalists to advocate the post-2015 Millennium Development Goal agenda of eradicating malaria.

The Rector of GIJ, Mr David Newton, said the institute had designed a new course in health communication, which is awaiting approval from the National Accreditation Board (NAB), to increase health reporting and communication.

World Malaria Day, 25 April

World Malaria Day, marked each year on 25 April, is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control. This organisation joins well-meaning individuals and stakeholder to mark this day. 

Goal: energize commitment to fight malaria

World Malaria Day was instituted by WHO Member States during the World Health Assembly of 2007. It is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control. It is also an opportunity:

  • for countries in affected regions to learn from each other’s experiences and support each other’s efforts;
  • for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria;
  • for research and academic institutions to flag scientific advances to both experts and the general public; and
  • for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to further scale up interventions.
    Source: WHO
Invest in the future. Defeat malaria

In 2014, it was estimated that global efforts to control and eliminate malaria saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 42% globally and 49% in Africa. Increased political commitment and expanded funding have helped to reduce malaria incidence by 25% globally, and 31% in Africa.
The 2014 World Malaria Day coincided with the 70th anniversary of WHO. The Day was marked with a series of interviews with leaders and advocates in the global malaria response, as they reflected on key moments in fighting this disease over the decades.

But we are not there yet. Malaria still kills an estimated 627 000 people every year, mainly children under 5 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, 97 countries had on-going malaria transmission.

Every year, more than 200 million cases occur; most of these cases are never tested or registered. Emerging drug and insecticide resistance threaten to reverse recent gains.

If the world is to maintain and accelerate progress against malaria, post Millennium Development Goal (MDG -6), and to sustain the gains of MDGs 4 and 5, more funds are urgently required.

Malaria Day Themes
The theme for 2020 and 2021: Reaching the zero malaria target
The theme for 2019 and 2020: Zero malaria starts with me
The theme for 2018 and 2019: Zero malaria starts with me
The theme for 2017 and 2018: Ready to beat malaria
The theme for 2016 and 2017: Malaria prevention works – Let’s close the gap
The theme for 2015 and 2016: End Malaria for good
The theme for 2014 and 2015: Invest in the future. Defeat malaria
Recent World Malaria Days

Credit WHO
A community health worker conducts a malaria rapid diagnostic test for a child, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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The good fight against malaria

Apr 2011          

The preventable disease kills about 800,000 people each year, but progress is being made in the fight to eradicate it.

The tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti, and hurricane Katrina are among the world’s most notorious recent natural disasters.

Their fierce devastation claimed thousands of lives, destroyed vital infrastructure, and crippled economies.

The communities affected could not be more different from one another, and yet the similarities in the responses are striking. The worldwide outpouring of support demonstrated what humanity is capable of at its best.

While international support in a time of crisis demonstrates a seemingly innate moral response to the suffering of others, it also highlights with disquieting clarity that the same level of empathy is more difficult to evoke when a crisis is chronic instead of sudden, unexpected, and dramatic.

One of the most devastating global health challenges on the planet is malaria, which claims more than 800,000 lives annually, primarily among young African children.

According to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, 2,000 children die of the disease each day. Yet, unlike the aftermath of a natural disaster, there are no photographs to capture the scope of this tragedy.

The loss of life is every bit as devastating, but without the onslaught of grisly images, it is much easier to become indifferent to malaria’s victims.

Malaria deaths represent nothing less than a moral issue. This is why the United Nations, World Bank, Global Fund, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, African heads of state, and many other governments, organisations, and individuals have felt compelled to act.

In 2008, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon declared the goal of ensuring universal access to malaria-control interventions by the end of 2010 for all those at risk of the disease, with the ultimate goal of reaching near-zero malaria deaths by 2015.

Since those goals were set, major progress has been made. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved, and the international community now is redoubling its efforts to reach the 2015 milestone.

Three years ago, when more than $3bn in new money was committed to the malaria effort, mosquito nets and indoor spraying protected less than 20 per cent of Africa’s at-risk population. Today, the proportion is more than 90 per cent.

These gains occurred only because of the commitment of leaders, agencies, and individuals who realised that lessening the malaria burden is not only an opportunity, but also a responsibility.

No organisation better embodies the moral imperative of ending malaria deaths than the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA).

Formed during the UN General Assembly in September 2009 under the leadership of president Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, and supported by the African Union, the group has added government advocacy and accountability to the combined efforts being made to halt and reverse the spread of malaria on the continent.

Recognising that the death of a child from a mosquito bite is unacceptable in the twenty-first century, ALMA leaders understand that the most effective way to ensure that recent gains are sustained is to assume leadership and ownership of the challenge.

They are taking concrete actions, such as ensuring that essential malaria-control interventions are exempted from taxes and tariffs that add unnecessary costs to life-saving items, and that supplies are purchased in bulk to reduce costs.

Most powerful of all, perhaps, is an innovative “scorecard”, which is being prepared to track progress in the struggle to end malaria deaths, and to “flag” problems that arise before they reach a critical stage. The scorecard will be open and accessible to all.

While African political leaders have ultimate responsibility for protecting their citizens, faith communities share deeply in this commitment.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is conducting a global campaign, Faiths Act, which calls for greater engagement by faith communities in preventing malaria deaths. Supporters of every religion in 106 countries have answered the call.

Though accurate statistics are hard to come by, the World Health Organisation estimates that faith communities provide, on average, 40 per cent of total health-care services in sub-Saharan Africa.

What faith communities have working in their favour are networks, infrastructure, and influential leaders to deliver health messages.

In many instances, they can reach deep into inaccessible rural areas to deliver services. When well resourced, faith leaders can adopt holistic approaches to major killer diseases and use their networks effectively for immunisation and combating pandemics.

In Nigeria, which accounts for one-quarter of the continent’s malaria deaths, the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association has been particularly effective in training religious leaders for health messaging against malaria and in the correct use of bed nets.

This initiative has received the backing of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, the country’s leading Muslim, and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Oneiyekan.

There is a full-time, centrally organised office and team to co-ordinate this program. If it succeeds, the impact will be dramatic – and not just in Nigeria.

For example, Sierra Leone, with its small population, excellent Muslim-Christian relations, and uphill struggle to improve its health-care system after the depredations of civil war, has a longstanding relationship with the United Kingdom.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has been in consultation with the country’s religious leaders and inter-faith association to develop a national program with the Ministry of Health that would promote the government’s key public-health messages, participate in education for bed-net use, and use available health assets and faith community networks.

Now is no time for indifference. Much significant progress has already been made; now we must consolidate our gains.

As foreign aid stands to suffer from cutbacks around the world, we must remember that malaria is a “natural disaster” that is devastating communities every second of every day.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes can never be stopped. Malaria can be.


Source: News agencies

UN pledges to end malaria deaths

Apr 2010

One million lives spared from mosquito-borne diseases due to use of nets in past 10 years.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has called for the elimination of malaria deaths by the end of 2010 as he marks the first World Malaria Day.

Malaria remains a killer disease, with nearly one million people losing their lives every year.

Eighty five per cent of deaths are children under five years of age.

Most malaria cases occur in Africa but it nevertheless remains a global problem also affecting large parts of Asia and Latin America.

There are also cases in the Middle East and parts of Europe.

And as World Malaria Day is marked on Sunday, Ban is urging governments to ensure effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria.

“Two years ago, I called for malaria prevention and treatment programmes to be made universally available to at-risk populations by the end of 2010,” he said of the goal.

More than half a billion people are infected with malaria each year.

Despite this, it is preventable and treatable.

In a statement, Ban said “with commitment and resources, we can eradicate malaria and achieve all our global development objectives”.

Bed nets

Ban called for more bed nets, more malaria clinics, more training for community health workers, and encouragement of research into the disease.

“This World Malaria Day brings much cause for satisfaction. In a very short time, the world has gone from simply trying to hold malaria at bay to the realistic goal of delivering effective and affordable care to all who need it,” he said.

“The global campaign against malaria has shown what is possible when the international community joins forces on multiple fronts to tackle a disease that takes its heaviest toll on poor and underprivileged populations.

“But our optimism must also be leavened with caution. Malaria is a tenacious foe. To sustain current gains we must be vigilant.”

Since 2000 when African leaders resolved to halve malaria deaths by this year, many plans have been developed.


One was part of World Health Organisation’s guidelines released last month, advising that accurate tests should be conducted before dispensing malaria drugs.

WHO said on Friday it had added 16 more malaria diagnostic tests to its approved list to help health workers quickly identify which patients have the disease and need immediate treatment.

Around 40 per cent of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, a potentially deadly disease transmitted via mosquito bites.

It kills around 860,000 people a year worldwide, most of them children in Africa.

‘Major breakthrough’

“These rapid tests have been a major breakthrough in malaria control,” Robert Newman, the director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said in a statement.

“They allow us to test people who cannot access diagnosis based on microscopy in remote, rural areas where the majority of malaria occurs.”

WHO malaria guidelines call for diagnosis using either microscopy or rapid tests before treatment in all suspected malaria cases, but in 2008, only 22 per cent of suspected cases were tested in 18 of 35 African countries that reported data.

The Geneva-based WHO said wider diagnosis would allow health workers to identify which patients with fever have malaria and need drugs, and which have other causes of illness and need other treatment. It would also improve overall childhood survival, a key UN development goal.

In many parts of the world, malaria parasites have developed resistance to a number of medicines, necessitating more stringent measures to deal with the disease, especially in rural areas.

Widespread resistance

Inappropriate use of anti-malarial drugs has contributed to widespread resistance by the malaria parasite to commonly used drugs such as chloroquine, leading to rising rates of sickness and death.

Over the past decade, a new group of antimalarials known as artemesinin-based combination therapies or ACTs, has brought new hope in the fight against the disease.

With about 250 days left to meet the 2010 target of universal insecticide-treated net (ITN) coverage for all at-risk populations and the halving of malaria cases and deaths, it is estimated that around 10 million Kenyans lack ITNs.

The US government announced on Thursday that it would focus part of its $63bn, six-year Global Health Initiative plan to accelerate efforts to fight malaria, mostly in Africa and aimed at women and children.

Previous efforts to control malaria have proved less than successful.

In 1998 the Roll Back Malaria initiative aimed to halve malaria deaths by 2010 – but halfway through the programme deaths had actually risen.

Reversing the trend of increase in malaria and other diseases is one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, aimed at reducing poverty and improving the quality of life by 2015.


Source: News agencies

Oct 2011

Results at trial sites in sub-Saharan Africa suggest RTS,S reduces risk of developing deadly disease by 56 per cent.

A new vaccine against malaria will help reduce African children's risk of acquiring the disease by about half, according to the first results of an ongoing phase III trial.

The vaccine, whose trial results were made public on Tuesday, has been developed by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline's lab in Belgium.

Known as RTS,S the vaccine is the first of its kind to attempt to block a parasite, rather than bacteria or viruses.

Trial results suggested the vaccine reduced the risk of developing clinical malaria by 56 per cent among children aged five to 17 months. They received three doses of the vaccine.

Malaria, spread by mosquitoes, causes high fever and chills and often results in death in sub Saharan Africa and parts of Asia with woefully inadequate medical facilities.

The trial is under way at 11 sites, including Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. At least 15,460 infants and young children are involved in what GSK described as "the largest malaria vaccine trial to date".

When it came to severe malaria, the stage of the illness that can be fatal and reaches the blood, brain or kidneys, those who received the vaccine showed a 47 per cent lower risk.

"This is remarkable when you consider that there has never been a successful vaccine against a human parasite," said Tsiri Agbenyega, who chairs the RTS,S Clinical Trials Partnership and heads malaria research at Komfo-Anokye Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana.

"While these results are encouraging, we still have a ways to go."

Efficacy concerns

The analysis was done with data from 6,000 children in the trial over a 12-month follow-up after vaccination.

More data is needed from the younger age group - infants aged six weeks to 12 weeks - to better assess how well it works, experts said. Additional results from the younger set are due next year.

The results are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, and were simultaneously announced at the Malaria Forum hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington.

Asked by a reporter whether the Gates Foundation would get behind a vaccine with a success rate of only about half, Regina Rabinovich, director for infectious diseases at the foundation's global health programme, was circumspect.

"This is a key question. The group will ultimately want to understand efficacy, duration and safety," she said.

She said she was "enthusiastic" about the results so far and was awaiting further data.

"Would I prefer to see a 100 per cent effective vaccine? Absolutely."

Trial to continue

The vaccine was administered to children who are in areas with other interventions against malaria, such as bed nets and spraying.

The vaccine was created in 1987 in GlaxoSmithKline Bio's lab in Belgium.

Testing began on healthy adults in Belgium and the US in 1992, before the first Africa study started in Gambia in 1998.

The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to defend itself against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest type of malaria parasite.

Several questions remain, including how long the vaccine may last, how well it works in small babies, and how much it will cost, said Seth Berkley, CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance).

The trial is set to continue for two more years.


Source: News agencies