ON THE WEB
Malaria: Arusha’s most under rated killer disease.
Both the Arusha region and the municipality have one common Killer disease, Malaria. Yet it is the most under rated epidemic of all time. Our reporter; Nyamanoko Bwire, decided to find out why, by having a chat with both the Regional Health Officer Dr. Shayo and the municipal Doctor Job Laizer.
MUNICIPAL DOCTOR, JOB LAIZER
Question: How is the Malaria situation in Arusha municipality?
Answer: The situation is worse. At least 30 per cent of people suffer from the disease each year, with 2001 faring worst.
Q: On average, how many people die from Malaria in the municipality every year?
A: Actually Malaria is the biggest killer disease in Arusha municipality. About 31,618 cases of Malaria were reported in between 1999-2000, out of which there were 204 deaths. On average, at least 31 per cent of Malaria victims die every year.
Q: There have been reports that, the new Malaria treatment drug, Sulphurdioxine Paramethamine (SP) has extreme side effects to the users. Any alternative drug?
A: SP drugs are highly effective in combating malarial parasites. However, I have to admit that, there are some people who are allergic to sulphur, a major component of SP drugs.
Still, there are other useful rugs such as Artemisin, Quinine, Halofantrin (Halfan) and Amodiaquine, which can serve the same purpose.
Q: Some people still find the banned Chloroquine treatment effective. Any plans to continue using the drug?
A: Well, this is an official Government order, that the use of Chloroquine should be discontinued since it has been discovered that, Malaria parasites have been resistant to it.
However, we have just suspended the drug for the time being, to allow people to use other medications in order to decrease the resistance.
Q: How effective is the “Ngao” brand insecticide being applied in domestic mosquito nets?
A: Right now domestic Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) have been found to cut down Malaria infections by 20 per cent. Ngao kills all cold blooded flying or crawling insects. However, most local people especially those living in remote areas, are yet to learn about ITN.
Q: Which group seems to be highly vulnerable to Malaria infections, in Arusha municipality?
A: Here, as records show, Malaria mostly strikes children under five years of age, and expectant mothers whose body immune systems are usually low.
Q: Then there must be also some specific areas of the municipality, where Malaria seems to be more rampant.
A: Yes! Malaria cases are reported more in Un-surveyed residential areas such as Sombetini, Enkarenarok, Unga Limited, Baraa, Sokon, Kimandolu and Kijenge where the environment is usually dirty and people live in pathetic conditions.
Q: Ah! But these are the areas where people with low income live, so do you think they can afford to incur expenses that go with preventive measures such as Ngao insecticides?
A: It costs only Tsh.400 to buy a single “Ngao” tablet which gives a maximum protection period of six months. Still, it costs nothing to clean up their environment, mind you, if these people knew how dangerous Malaria was, high expenses wouldn’t have been taken into consideration.
Q: What do you think should be done, in order to cut down, if not to totally wipe out Malaria cases in the community?
A: Education is important since most people are still in the dark about the entire situation. Husbands need to realize that, both their children and expectant wives are very much at risk when it comes to Malaria.
Protection measure such as ITN, cleaner, environments are also very important.
REGIONAL HEALTH OFFICER: DR. SHAYO
Question: On average, how many cases of Malaria are reported in Arusha region every year?
Answer: We don’t have the 2002 records yet, but we had 242,775 cases in 1999, and about 385,617 cases in the year 2000. Overall, there have been a total of, 628,392 cases of Malaria recorded in the two year period.
Q: What about the regional Malaria death toll?
A: A total of; 964 Malaria victims have died from the disease in between, 1999 and the year 2000. A total of 582 deaths were recorded in the year 2000, while 382 occurred in 1999.
Q: Which district seems to fare worst, when it comes to Malaria inflections?
A: Karatu district topped the 1999 bill, with 40,605 cases though only two deaths occurred in the district. Mbulu recorded more Malaria deaths with 197 victims in 1999.
Apparently, Mbulu district recorded more Malaria cases in 2000 with 106,669 cases, though Babati topped the year’s Malaria death toll with 214 deaths.
Overall, Mbulu topped the bill in the two year Malaria cases with 129,823 victims and 309 deaths.
Babati, which had 57,473 Malaria cases in the two year period, recorded more deaths with 343 dead victims.
Q: Which district had less Malaria cases?
A: Monduli. There were no Malaria cases recorded in Monduli in 1999, but in the year 2000 there were about 49,956 cases and 18deaths.
Q: What types of people seem to be highly affected by Malaria infections in Arusha region?
A: Victims of Malaria are usually newcomers (foreigners), expectant mothers and children under five years of age. Also, Malaria seems to be more rampant among people living in poor conditions, those with little or no income at all who can not afford protective measures, drugs or better and cleaner living conditions.
Q: There are speculations that the current anti-malaria drug of Sulphurdioxine Paramethamine (SP) is not only becoming ineffective, but extremely dangerous as well, can this be true?
A: There have been no reported cases of problems resulting from the use of SP drugs. We still recommend SP for normal Malaria treatments.
Q: How taxing have Malaria epidemics been so far?
A: This is obvious. Our economy have suffered since the disease affects both performance and productions. The pandemic has also some drastic effects on education.
Q: Can the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) be relied upon?
A: Well, the Insecticide (Ngao), when applied onto ordinary domestic mosquito nets, reduces the rate of Malaria infection by 20 per cent and is recommended as an initial protective measure, among others.
Q: What are the other protective measures?
A: Early treatments, regular health checks, keeping the living environment clean and of course mass community education on malaria, especially in rural areas.
May 17, 2002.