UGANDA – Malaria cases in Uganda dropped by 8.7 per cent in the financial year 2020/21, a report released by the country’s observatory body has said.

The annual report, issued by the ministry of health, said malaria cases dropped to about 13.6 million in 2020/21 from 14.9 million in 2019/20.

The deadly disease remained the leading cause of hospitalization in the East African country, followed by pneumonia, neonatal conditions and anemia.

The number of deaths in health facilities increased to 45,990 from 45,042 during the period, the report noted.

Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

The first symptoms – fever, headache and chills – usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite and may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. Left untreated, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness and death within a period of 24 hours.

In 2019, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria and developing severe disease: infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as people with low immunity moving to areas with intense malaria transmission such as migrant workers, mobile populations and travellers.

According to the latest World malaria report, there were 229 million cases of malaria in 2019 compared to 228 million cases in 2018. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019, compared with 411 000 deaths in 2018. Children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2019 they accounted for 67% (274 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.

The WHO African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, the region was home to 94% of all malaria cases and deaths. Six countries accounted for approximately half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (23%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), United Republic of Tanzania (5%), Burkina Faso (4%), Mozambique (4%) and Niger (4%).

According to WHO Uganda has the 3rd highest global burden of malaria cases (5%) and the 8th highest level of deaths (3%).  It also has the highest proportion of malaria cases in East and Southern Africa 23.7%.

Between 2016 and 2019, the estimated number of malaria cases in the East African country decreased 7.2%, from 283 to 263 per 1 000 000 of the population at risk, while deaths fell 9.5% from 0.34 to 0.31 per 1000 of the population at risk over the same period.

The new Uganda Malaria Reduction and Elimination Strategic Plan 2021-2025, which is the result of coordinated efforts between the National Malaria Control Division (NMCD), the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Fund, and other strategic partners, aims to reduce malaria infections by 50 percent, morbidity by 50 percent and mortality by 75 percent by 2025.

The Plan aims to achieve these goals through stratification to ensure appropriate tailoring of intervention mixes for the various epidemiologic contexts, universal coverage of services (including in the private sector), robust data management and social behavioral change, multisectoral collaboration, and malaria elimination in two districts.

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