ECOWAS leaders are determined to eliminate malaria from the region to free the enormous resources currently expended on battling the scourge for socio-economic development, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama has said.
in an address at the ground breaking ceremony in Ghana’s capital, Accra, Tuesday, for the construction of a biolarvicide factory in the country in support of the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign, President Mahama said in sub-Saharan Africa, “malaria stands between us and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”
“This is particularly so because of the devastating effects of malaria on our children’s educational efforts and the life of pregnant women,” the President noted in the address that was delivered by Health Minister Sherry Ayittey to a packed audience at the Accra International Conference Centre.
He described the building of the factory, one of the three earmarked for the region under a Tripartite Agreement by ECOWAS, Cuba and Venezuela to strengthen the vector control component of the regional malaria elimination strategy, as a “landmark investment” in moving towards the realisation of “improving our capacity to control malaria and eventually eliminate and even eradicate it”.
Apart from thousands of deaths, particularly of children under five years old and pregnant women, Malaria costs Africa more than US$12 billion annually through sickness and lost productivity, with Ghana alone bearing US$730 million of the economic burden while about 13% of all recorded deaths in the country are attributed to malaria.
Biolarvicide is a substance that kills mosquitoes, the malaria vectors, at their larvae development stage, thereby reducing their bites and therefore transmission of malaria.
The Ghanaian president noted that in many parts of the world where malaria has been eradicated, even before the development of new and potent drugs, one of the key strategies adopted was effective vector control.
Apart from the production of biolarvicides against malaria, the factories will also produce bio-fertilizer to boost agricultural productivity and create jobs with the attendant socio-economic benefits to the host countries and the region at large.
For his part, ECOWAS Commission President Kadré Desire Ouédraogo said the Accra ceremony, the third and last in a series following those in Cote d’Ivoire and Port Harcourt, Nigeria, “gives concrete expression to our leaders’ resolve and determination to eliminate malaria from pour region” since the launch of the Campaign in Accra in July 2011.
He paid glowing tributes to his two predecessors, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas and Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, “for giving a very high profile to the malaria elimination programme among our activities at the ECOWAS Commission.”
The launch of the construction of the biolarvicide factory, the Commission President said: “marks an important step towards the realisation of our partnership and commitment,” adding that the Malaria Elimination Campaign “is a war, we must fight and win.”
Dr. Constance Bart-Plange, Manager of Ghana Malaria Control Programme, made a presentation on the country’s anti-malaria policy and activities, while Dr. Mariane Ngoulla, the ECOWAS Special Adviser on Health, traced the background to the regional campaign, noting that if other parts of the world could do it, “Africa and West Africa must fight and win the war against malaria.”
In their speeches, Chargé d’Affaires of the Cuban Embassy in Ghana Tomas Mendez and his Venezuelan counterpart in Benin, Oscar Cabello, reaffirmed their countries’ total commitment and determination to ensure the success of the regional campaign under the tripartite accord.
While delivering the vote of thanks, ECOWAS Commission Vice President Toga McIntosh stressed the need for all the partners in the malaria elimination campaign to back their words with concrete actions.
Highlight of the occasion, which was also attended by Ghana’s Environment, Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Joe Oteng Adjei, was the symbolic ground breaking with the unveiling of a plaque by Health Minister Ayittey and ECOWAS Commission President Ouédraogo, for the construction of the factory, followed by an exhibition on malaria control and elimination in Ghana.
The ground breaking event, which brought together health experts from within and outside the ECOWAS region, was preceded by a tripartite experts working group meeting by ECOWAS, Cuba and Venezuela on Monday, also in the Ghanaian capital.
The participants, after discussing, among others, the feasibility study; cost build up and investment architecture of the project as well as the forthcoming 4th High-Level partners meeting in Venezuela, agreed a roadmap for the regional campaign to be presented to ECOWAS authorities for approval.