A protracted land-related dispute between two communities in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region – Doba and Kandiga, is taking a toll on an ongoing malaria vaccination exercise in the area.
Health experts, say the number of children being vaccinated in the pilot exercise, have continued to drop as families continue to flee the affected communities.
A total of 2,380 children took the first dose of the vaccine between January and December 2020 in the municipality.
The numbers dropped to 2,219 during the dispensation of the second dose. The figures fell to 2,207 during the administration of the third dose and finally went down to 438.
The Kassena-Nankana Municipal Disease Control Officer, Guido Bamere, said several members of the affected communities had fled to locations where the vaccines were not available for caregivers and lactating mothers to complete the final dose.
He added that a number of women in the municipality had also moved to the southern part of the country to seek greener pastures without leaving any information behind which, according to him, had been a challenge to the progress of the programme.
When Word News visited the Guru Health Centre, a facility in the municipality, some women expressed joy about the vaccination exercise. BasevereyireSeidu, who is a caregiver to her granddaughter, said the child only experienced a slight headache after taking the first dose and since then the child had suffered any malaria attack.
The sub-municipal head of Wuru Health Centre, Roger Aluu, said the introduction of the vaccine saw most people not willing to cooperate with the vaccination officers in the beginning because the communication did not go down well with them but they welcomed the exercise after they were sensitised through community durbars. Some mothers at Sandema in the Builsa North District expressed after they heard about the exercise.
"It was difficult in the beginning because publicity did not go down well. It made it very easy for some unscrupulous people to mislead the public that the vaccine was not safe. As a result, some women did not like the vaccine. But after some time, we were able to bring those women back and because of the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) drugs, most women now understand that malaria incidents have now gone down with their children," Roger Aluu noted.
Bajuawadi Adua, a mother at the Pungu South CHPS Compound in the municipality, said her child, Cidonia Adua Awugwoni, had a slight fever after she took the first dose and since then she had not experienced such condition after taking the second, the third and the fourth doses of the malaria vaccine.Another woman from the Kologo Health Centre, Paulina Anagom, says her child, Anagom Abriel, had an abnormal temperature after taking the final dose but has never fallen sick since that time.
General OPD Malaria cases recorded in UER from 2015 -2020
Speaking exclusively to Word News, the Upper East Regional Malaria Focal Person, Sydney Abilba, indicated that the data available suggested that the general OPD malaria cases from 2015 to 2020 showed that there was a drop in the general OPD cases in the region. The general malaria OPD cases in 2019 stood at 55,6676 and in the year 2020, the figures dropped to 48,7925.
OPD Malaria Cases among children under five in the KNM
OPD malaria cases among children under five years also dropped marginally in 2019 from 41.3% to 41.1%. The Upper East Region recorded zero malaria deaths in 2020. In 2019, malaria deaths for children under five stood at 0.01 and drop drastically to 0.00 in 2020 due to the malaria vaccine and other interventions like Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention and the distribution of certified treated bed nets.
Mr Sydney Abilba Regional Malaria focal Person UER
"So, this is where currently we stand. So, you can see there is a drop in our general malaria cases but this is not where we want to be. We want to ensure that at least once everybody can adhere to the preventive measures like sleeping under the bed nets and also adhering to some of the preventive treatments like the ITPP that is for pregnant women where they are given SP when they attain 16 weeks of pregnancy till delivery, we hope the OPD cases will drop much further. So, in all as a region we are making little gains but we are hoping that things will improve and get better. Malaria is a preventable disease and there is no need for children and any other person to suffer from it" Mr Abilba added.