News Editors from key media institutions across the country, have declared their support for the "Zero Malaria Start with Me Now" campaign to champion the fight in eliminating the disease in Ghana by 2030.
The editors pledged to be proactive champions - providing regular, accurate and high-quality media output on malaria, generating positive energy around the prospect of eliminating the disease, and driving the national conversation.
They made the declaration at a forum organised by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in partnership with the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), Speak Up Africa, and other partners in Accra on Thursday.
The News Editors committed to widely disseminate life-saving information to Ghanaians, and hold decision-makers accountable by reporting on commitments and progress made towards meeting malaria targets.
Dr Keziah Malm, the Programme Manager for the National Malaria Control Programme, said the media was a crucial advocacy partner in the fight against malaria, because it was one of the primary means through, which the population received information.
She, therefore, led the editors to sign a "Declaration of Support", saying, their pledge represented a unique opportunity to initiate a profound and positive change to the health and development of the society based on collective mobilisation, that, brought people together around an issue that affected every single person.
According to her, the latest World Malaria Report released in November 2019, showed that the disease caused an estimated 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018, compared with 231 million cases and 416,000 mortalities in 2017, and that 70 per cent of these deaths were in children under five years.
Malm said Sub-Saharan Africa, continued to carry over 90 per cent of the global malaria burden, costing the continent 12 billion United States dollars in direct loses annually, causing suffering, dismantling families, reducing productivity as well as investments and tourism.
In Ghana specifically, the estimated incidence and mortality rates had declined by 28 and 39 per cents respectively between 2010 and 2017, which she said, equated to three million fewer cases and seven thousand fewer deaths each year.
Yet, malaria remained a public health issue, which continued to pose the greatest health risk in Ghana, being responsible for 30 per cent of outpatient attendance, and 23 per cent of inpatient visits at public health facilities, and placing a substantial burden on the health of the workforce, while increasing costs on the National Health Insurance Scheme, Dr.
She cited a recent study, which showed that malaria current levels would cost Ghanaians 32 billion dollars over the next 10 years, and that included more than one billion missed days of work, two billion dollars in health system expenditures, 29 billion in private sector loses, and 580 million in reduced household income, saying, reducing these costs, would remove barriers to Universal Health Coverage and sustainable domestic financing of health.
The World Health Organisation, she said, had estimated that achieving the goal of malaria elimination by 2030 would result in an estimated two trillion boost to the global economy, hence the need for strengthened collaboration through the effective championing of the "Zero Malaria Starts with Me" campaign for a malaria-free Africa.
Mr James Wallen, the Malaria Programme Officer for Speak Up Africa, said the "Zero Malaria Starts with Me" campaign, which was a Pan-African movement that built genuine solidarity and multi-sectoral collaboration to eliminate the disease, was firmly believed could be won by 2030.
He said while significant progress had been made in the last 20 years, averting more than seven million malaria-related deaths and one million infections, the COVID-19 pandemic had led to major setbacks, leading to increases in cases and mortality rate.
Mr Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists Association charged the editors to help change the paradigm and the narrative adding that journalists should not politicise malaria issues.
He entreated the media to use the power they wield and the influence they have to champion the cause of ensuring total elimination of malaria from Ghana whiles they scaled up their commitment to the fight.
Dr Charity Binka, Founder and Executive Secretary, AMMREN, said: "we are pushing towards elimination and COVID-19 has shown us that the media is critical in the campaign.
" She called on all government and private sector agencies to collaborate in the fight against malaria and to commit to investing in malaria control and elimination.