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 By Cynthia E. Pacutho, Program Coordinator, Malaria Partners Uganda 

 

2021 rolled in with much hope, after a globally tumultuous 2020. June saw the worst of Covid-19, with a peak of 1700 infections in one day. This number has since dropped to 60. To date the country has registered only 3,268 deaths, 97,778 recoveries and vaccinated 7,610,437 of the 44 million population. However, Malaria did not take a back seat; positive cases total 1,819,229 nationally, with mortality per 100,000 at 3 by August. Karamoja region in North Eastern Uganda still registers the highest percentage of children aged 0-59 months testing positive for Malaria at 34%.

Rotary Uganda is well placed to support the malaria fight due to their success in projects, polio elimination track record and over 200 Rotary and Rotaract clubs countrywide. The first three beneficiaries of the MPI Small Grants – Rotary Clubs (RC) of Arua/Arua Eco City, Mbale Metropolitan and Bukoto – successfully completed their projects in 2021. RC Arua/Arua Eco city is utilizing VHTs in the implementation of Malarial interventions in Ombatini and Adroyi villages in Arua district, recording a decrease in Malaria positive cases at partner hospital Kuluva from 200 to 54 in the first quarter of 2021. Market Vendors in Mbale city have received sensitization on Malaria management, screening/referral for treatment, and treated Mosquito nets through RC Mbale Metro Market Vendors Malaria Project (MAVEMAP 1). RC Bukoto carried out Larviciding of open drainages in Katanga Slum, Mulimira zone. RC Bukedea, RC Muyenga Tankhill and Rotaract Club of Kampala North have had their Small Grant applications approved this year.

Rapid urbanization in Kampala has overwhelmed the city council services, particularly in the slums, that suffer most from Malaria largely in the rainy seasons. Due to the lockdown, MPU was only able to carry out one Urban site visit. On the 21st of May, Rotarians and Rotaractors from Makindye West hosted MPU to a meeting with religious leaders, local council leaders and VHTs, as well as a tour of Takajunge. Focus Group discussions were held to gather information on Malaria occurrences and experiences, strategize on relevant Malaria control and prevention specific to the community and foster ownership of these strategies. The club is now a candidate for an MPI Small Grant to fund a Malaria project in Takajunge.

MPU also participated in the District 9211 96th DCA at Munyonyo Commonwealth Hotel in Kampala, Uganda from the 21st to 24th of April at the House of Friendship. Malaria control and prevention interventions like mosquito repellent plants/jelly/soap, free Malaria testing, mosquito nets, as well as success stories of MPI Small Grant beneficiaries were on exhibit and all free 102 Malaria tests at the booth were negative, among whose was RIPPR Yinka Babalola. The 96th DCA saw the sunset of D9211 and the dawn of Districts 9213 and 9214 to be governed by John Ndamira Magezi from Uganda and Young Kimaro from Tanzania respectively.

Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Malaria (UPFM) became a major partner in 2021. It is a platform of Members of Parliament from different political shades who collectively generate visibility and provide leadership in the control and eventual elimination of Malaria through Advocacy. On Tuesday, the 28th of April, MPU was one of varied Malaria stakeholders to attend a high-level meeting with the then Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca A. Kadaga, who acknowledged Rotary’s grass roots support due to proximity of Rotary clubs in every constituency. UPFM and MPU held a discussion on Thursday the 17th of June, on possible collaboration to highlight the state of “Malaria during Covid19” in Uganda. A press briefing was part of the meeting to draw attention to the effect of the tight control measures aimed at keeping infections in check, which while useful in preventing the spread of the virus, had adverse effects on health seeking and service delivery. Measures have since been made more flexible for patients to seek treatment for other diseases and health workers to provide such treatment.

On the 19th of August MPU was in attendance of a novel meeting between Tanzania Parliamentarians against Malaria (TAPAMA) and Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Malaria (UPFM) at the Parliament of Uganda in Kampala. In light of Malaria transmission risks associated with cross border movements, the MPs acknowledged the urgency of Malaria mainstreaming amongst partner States in order to control infections and eradicate Malaria by 2030. The meeting resolved to form East African Parliamentarians Against Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (EAPAM/NTD). The MPs also resolved to bring on board other Legislators from partner States; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, ahead of the next meeting to be held in Arusha, Tanzania.

The highlight of the year was the national Malaria Awareness 30Km bike ride that brought together representatives from WHO, USAID, UPFM, Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Malaria Free Uganda (MFU), Rotary Uganda, corporate sponsors and citizens to commemorate the World Malaria Day on Tuesday the 25th of April at Munyonyo Common Wealth Resort. Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health, was the Chief Guest at the rainy event, flagging off 153 children and adults, receiving them at the end of the circuit with Mosquito Nets. USAID Mission Director Richard Nelson urged those present to “be the generation that ends Malaria”. WHO Representative Dr. Bayo Fatunmbi emphasized the need to take personal responsibility for the Year’s theme Zero Malaria starts with me.

In 2021 Rotarian Malaria Partners Uganda (RMPU) become Malaria Partners Uganda (MPU)! Our mission remains; to rally Rotarians around a campaign to see Malaria eliminated across the country. While we took a hiatus at the height of the pandemic, we utilized the rest of the year to strengthen our stakeholder engagements and revise our strategy for the next three years. As an apex organization, our Advocacy agenda seeks to redefine the national Malaria context, particularly it’s social economic impact and collaborate with relevant Malaria actors in influencing Malaria policy and triggering mindset change among citizens on prevention, control and eradication of Malaria.