Fighting Malaria in Yemen: IS IT DO-ABLE? [Archives:1998/23/Health]

June 8 1998

The Minister of Public Health, Dr. Abdullah Abdulwali Nasher has launched the Malaria Control Project in Sanaa and other affected governorates, in cooperation with the Ministry of Construction and Urban Planning and the Ministry of Culture and Irrigation.
Ten vehicles with special insecticide-spraying equipment set off to ten different destinations to take part in mosquito control. The WHO has provided $3,000 to the Malaria Control Project in Yemen.
The Minister of Health called on the public to cooperate with the campaign staff, indicating that a second campaign is in the pipeline. He stressed the need to avoid leaving food stuffs uncovered and to use mosquito netting. “People can also help in drying stagnant water,” he added. “Even if half a bottle of water was left open, this will become a breeding site for mosquitoes.”
For the last 2 or 3 years, malaria has increased to a very large extent for 2 reasons:
1- It is because of the global warming or increase in the over-all temperature, even in the high-altitude areas where malaria was unknown in the past.
2- The spread of little dams, which are being built all over the country, though they help contain water, has caused serious environmental and health hazards such as malaria and other water-borne diseases.
“These projects have not been accompanied by environmental or health-impact assessment studies. After they have been built, no measures were taken to protect them from the spread of mosquitoes and therefore malaria,” explained Dr. Nasher.
A team of consultants from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies came to Yemen to study the problem of malaria. They found that there are no control measures by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Construction and Housing or any other relevant sectors. They came out with a number of recommendations, which we have taken very seriously.
“We have also appointed a new director for the Malaria control program, and have just recently received a number of vehicles from the World Bank. The vehicles belonging to this project have either been sold by staff members or lost.”
Roughly, the number affected by malaria is about 10% of Yemen’s 18 million population, i.e., about 1.8 million people are affected by malaria every year. About 1% of these malaria cases (18,000) result in death every year, mostly among children.
“Our plan is long term because malaria is a seasonal disease in the coastal areas, high-altitude or the medium-altitude places. With any project, especially with a disease which is spreading and difficult to fight, the most important thing is sustainability of the project to make it continuous, and not to give in and relax because malaria will worsen.”
The Minister also emphasized the importance of health education as one of the main elements of primary health care. “Health education can be spread through programs on TV and radio, newspapers and schools etc.”The Ministry of Health is going to distribute treatment guidelines for malaria. “Some doctors and health workers maybe do not follow our guidelines, which were distributed in the past will be distributed again, and make sure the treatment is according to our guidelines. Because if it is not treated properly, you get some of the malaria parasites becoming resistant to the known drugs of malaria, and it is a big problem,” warned Dr. Nasher.
Since malaria is a big problem in African countries and because Yemen is not far away, all those carriers of malaria who come to the country certainly increase the problem.