Cameroon: Focus on Malaria

Written by Dr. Florence Akano

Cameroon is one of the countries which would be under the microscope at the United Nations 2022 High level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2022) in 2 months. The country is one of the nations under the focus as the fight against malaria continues. Over 90% of Cameroonians are at risk of contracting malaria, with 41% experiencing at least one episode per year. COVID-19 has taken centre stage and has unfortunately been the major health concern, but the other health dangers cannot be overlooked.

Malaria continues to wreak havoc on Cameroon’s public health and welfare. Despite the growing number of research on illness prevalence, transmission patterns, and therapy, there are still some that haven’t been completed. Despite increased scale-up of vector control efforts, which lowered malaria morbidity and death across the country from 41% of the population reporting at least one case episode in 2000 to 24% in 2017, the situation is still not under control. After the scale-up of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), disease endemicity varies greatly amongst epidemiological situations, with prevalence of Plasmodium parasitaemia ranging from 7 to 85 percent in children aged 6 months to 15 years.

Due to the high frequency of multidrug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant malaria vectors, the Cameroonian malaria control effort confronts an uphill battle. Above all, continued human migration from rural to urban areas, as well as population exchange with neighboring countries, a high rate of ecological instabilities due to deforestation, poor housing, and a lack of proper sanitation and drainage systems, may have contributed to Cameroon’s recent increase in malaria and other vector-borne disease incidences.

The focus on Cameroon is well founded. Malaria is Cameroon’s most widespread endemic disease. Plasmodium falciparum is the most common malaria parasite, and Anopheles gambiae s.l. is the major vector that transmits the disease. Cameroon’s government has prioritized the fight against malaria, which is highlighted in the country’s Health Sector Strategy (2016-2027). Cameroon is also one of the 15 nations with the highest malaria burden, accounting for 3% of all worldwide malaria cases and 3% of malaria deaths in 2019. It also has the third highest number of malaria cases in Central Africa (12.7 percent of cases). Thirty percent of all medical consultations were for suspected malaria cases, and 21% of visits to health institutions resulted in a diagnosis of laboratory-confirmed malaria. According to national figures from 2015, malaria was responsible for 19% of deaths in health facilities and 48% of all hospital admissions owing to the suspicion of severe malaria.

It’s not all been bad news however, between 2016 and 2019, progress was made in the fight against malaria. The number of cases dropped by 3.7 percent, from 254 to 243 per 1000 people at risk. In the same time span, mortality rates dropped by 17%, from 0.52 to 0.43 per 1000 people at risk. Only about a third of the youngsters who reported a fever had their blood tested for malaria.

In 2021, Cameroon plans to launch Phase 1 of its Universal Health Coverage (UHC) initiative. The goal is to bring together several free and subsidized care and treatment packages implemented throughout the country. The specifics of how malaria will be integrated into Phase 1 are still pending, but the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) is engaged in the UHC development process. Malaria partners anticipate that UHC will increase access and quality of malaria service delivery for the Cameroonian population. It is expected that more measures would be suggested at the 2022 High level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2022) next July, which would further strengthen the fight against malaria.

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Dr. Florence Akano

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