Ethiopia sounds alarm over new malaria prone areas

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The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) has sounded concerns over outbreaks of malaria in areas where the disease was previously not found.

A replacement program for insecticide-treated mosquito nets has had to be altered to incorporate the new areas.

The ministry had bought a second round of insecticide-treated bed nets to replace the previously distributed 20 million nets that have a life span of three to five years, according to government sources.

However, the presence of malaria in previously inactive places has forced the ministry to change its plan to replace the 20 million nets and commenced distribution to people living in newly-identified places, the source said.

Climate fluctuation has been identified by MoH officials as one of the principal reasons for the latest possible outbreak.

The mosquito net measure, taken since 2005 by the ministry in collaboration with the Roll Back Initiative, in which UNICEF and WHO are partners, has brought about significant change.

But, despite Ethiopia’s extensive malaria-fighting measures, the mosquito parasite induced sickness remains the most fatal disease in Ethiopia. And according to UNICEF “large scale epidemics occur every five to eight years in certain areas aggravated by climatic fluctuations and drought-related emergencies that weaken people’s immune system.”

In 2003 a major epidemic was registered, during which an estimated six million cases and more than 40,000 deaths were recorded.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health, in the course of the programme, stretched its health services as it dispatched over 30,000 health extension workers and distributed about 20 million bed nets to malaria prone areas.

This effort contributed to a dramatic fall in deaths from a disease that kills one in four people. The program halved malaria morbidity and mortality within three years.

There are two transmission seasons in Ethiopia: the first begins in April following the belg rains and the second in October, which also follows the country’s main regular rainy season, according to information obtained from WHO Ethiopia.

Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopian Health Minister, has expressed his concerns over the new outbreak. As chairman of the international Roll Back Malaria initiative, Tedros Adhanom has been using his country’s malaria-fighting model to inspire other African countries.

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