Dr. Mohammad Ali Khalifa to YT “Malaria Situation in Yemen is Alarming” [Archives:2001/25/Health]

June 18 2001

The Yemeni government is considering the situation related to malaria in Yemen. The government has already taken crucial and important steps and decisions to establish a strong anti-malaria program. The political commitment is there and has been built through the formation of the Supreme National malaria Control Committee by the Prime Ministerial decree no. 18 for the year 2000. Health editor, Ismael Al-Ghabri met with Dr. Mohammed Ali Khalifa, WHO Malaria Expert, who shed some light on the contribution of the WHO to help eradicate malaria in Republic of Yemen.
Q: What are the technical, medical and promotional aids by the World Health Organization to the National Malaria Control Program in Yemen?
A: Malaria is one of the top priority health problems worldwide and hence the anti-malaria program is one of the top priority programs adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO is running a ‘Roll Back Malaria’ project aiming at halving the burden of malaria by the year 2010. To achieve this goal, the WHO is coordinating with the countries concerned where malaria is endemic, like Yemen, to develop and strengthen a well organized anti-malaria program. These countries must commit to tackle this problem in a scientific, practical and sustainable way. Yemen is one of the countries which comes at the top of the list of the WHO office in the Eastern Mediterranean region known as EMRO. EMRO has appointed a long term malariologist to be based in Sana’a to assist the nationals in the planning and implementation of a Roll Back Malaria program in the country. The budget of the WHO allocated for the RBM in Yemen is the highest among the budgets of all health programs supported by the WHO in the country. The budget is used to provide the different equipment and insecticides required for the vector control operations, the different equipment and chemicals required to strengthen the management of malaria cases, whether simple or severe and complicated, by ensuring rapid diagnosis and prompt treatment. The WHO encourages the nationals, both financially and technically, to conduct applied research studies aiming at improving and developing the different malaria control measures in the country. WHO’s short term consultants in different fields of malariology visit the country on a regular basis to give the appropriate consultations to the nationals and to monitor and evaluate the plans and operations. The up-to-date literature, periodicals, booklets and textbooks are made available in the country regularly. Different training workshops and courses, both at the national and international levels, are conducted by the WHO and the nationals are invited to participate actively in these meetings in attempts to build the national capacity which will take care of the program in the long run. Anti-malaria drugs are also provided to the country whenever needed.
The WHO office in Yemen has been playing an important role in initiating the bilateral cooperation between the neighboring Sultanate of Oman and Yemen in malaria control. In this framework Oman sent two technical teams last years to Yemen for training purposes and received Yemeni delegations to Oman for orientation and training as well. Oman provided Yemen with 4WD station wagons, insecticides and spraying machines to strengthen the vector control and supervision activities.
In short, the WHO has been always committed to support the national anti-malaria control program in Yemen.
Q: How do you see the malaria situation in Yemen? How do you evaluate the efforts exerted by the Yemeni government in this field?
A: The malaria situation in Yemen is alarming in certain highly endemic areas. It is estimated that 50-60% of the population is at risk. Malaria in Yemen is epidemiologically classified as ” Afrotropical” which is the worst epidemiological malaria situation worldwide having the falciparum malaria and the Anopheles arabiensis as the predominant parasite species and malaria vector respectively. It is estimated that children especially under five and pregnant women are the major victims of malaria in Yemen.
Malaria has proved to be a major impediment of social and economic development, and it is high time to check the spread of malaria and alleviate the abject suffering of the Yemeni people from this health hazard.
Q: How do you assess the government’s efforts in this respect?
A: I think the Yemeni government is very much aware of the situation and has already taken very crucial and important actions and decisions to establish a strong anti-malaria program. The political commitment is there and has been built through the formation of the Supreme National Malaria Control Committee by the Prime Ministerial Decree no. 18 for the year 2000. The committee is chaired by the Minister of Health and fifteen ministries are represented by their deputy ministers besides several organizations, the private sector and the medical educational institutions.
Prime Ministerial Decree no. 19 for the year 2001 was issued announcing the year 2001 a year of Roll Back Malaria and making the anti-malaria program a vertical program under the direct supervision of the Minister of Public Health and Population.
A new National malaria Control Center has been recently established in Sana’a to be the head office responsible for planning, monitoring, follow-up, training and evaluation processes for the whole country. The program and the job descriptions have been set and the plans have started to be implemented in the field. Results of the effort have started to emerge e.g. a great success has been achieved on Socotra island where the citizens have reported a significant decline in the incidence of malaria in the island during the last quarter of the year 2000.
All these are promising and encouraging indicators which make us optimistic that the Roll Back Malaria program in Yemen is going to succeed Inshaa Allah.
Q: Do you think the coordination between the Ministry of Public Health and Population and the World Health Organization is satisfactory?
A: Of course I am very happy with the coordination between the Ministry of Public Health and Population and the World Health Organizations. There are many areas of coordination and the WHO is supporting almost thirty health programs in Yemen very strongly. This coordination is an excellent example of a positive global partnership in the era of globalization. I think the Yemeni government is keen to select and benefit from all the positive aspects of this globalization and its positive relationship and coordination with the WHO is a clear cut example of this approach. From the inside, the WHO is committed to maintain and even strengthen its support to all the health programs the Yemeni government is embarking on to promote the public health in the country and to help the Yemenis enjoy a healthy life away from the menace and scourge of the preventable health problems.