The Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Monday, acknowledged a major boost to its malaria control efforts by the introduction of the second 3rd Generation action Indoor Residual Spraying (3GIRS) project, to tackle the insecticide resistance challenge.
The 3GIRS project, which is a four-year $65.1 million Unitaid-funded market shaping initiative launched in 2016, is to expand the use of 3GIRS products as part of insecticide resistance management strategies in Africa.
The project is designed to overcome five conditions found in challenging markets which include; limited demand, market instability, limited competition, high prices and absence of a strong evidence-base, showing cost-effectiveness and impact.
Dr Keziah L. Malm, the Project Manager for the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), at a media briefing in Accra on Monday, said Ghana was heading for a breakthrough in its malaria resistance management by embracing a new product from Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese Company, known as the SumiShield 50WG.
She said the SumiShield 50WG chemical was a new mode of action for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) that had tested effective against many mosquitoes that had already developed resistance to one or all of the major classes of insecticides currently available.
It was presented as a colourless and ordourless chemical, has low toxicity, readily dilutes in water, easy to handle and transport as they come in small sachets, with its active ingredient providing excellent control of malaria transmitting mosquitoes, therefore very valuable when used in insecticide resistance management strategies.
Dr Malm said the move was to support the NMCP, in their efforts to save lives, and in its malaria resistance management to sustain the gains made over the years especially, in reducing maternal and under-five mortality resulting from malaria and to aim at total eradication of the disease.
However inspite of all the gains, malaria continues to pose a significant threat to the country’s public health, accounting for a huge number of in and Out-Patient records, increases the national and private sector health expenditure, and account for low productivity records due to consistent absenteeism of affected persons from their job schedules.
Dr Malm said insecticide resistance in malaria vectors had become one of the major issues of concern to stakeholders, saying although there had been a long history of using IRS for malaria control, which, had proven effective in many countries including Ghana, the usefulness of the method was currently under threat due to the increasing resistance of all available classes of insecticides and many products containing them.
Due to this, there have been calls for the need for new modes of action products, but the over 30 years silence, has resulted in the continuous use of old active ingredients like DDT, which presented many risks to the environment.
She commended Sumitomo the Chemical Company for the current breakthrough, saying the new active ingredient in the SumiShield 50WG, would address the IRS needs of communities, starting from Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, where AngloGold Ashanti, run an existing malaria control programme with other implementing partners, and would ensure a possible expansion to the three regions of the North.
Ms Tina Mensah, the Deputy Minister of Health said insecticides were now made more affordable for countries with a burden of malaria, with Unitaid, which is a multi-donor funded Organisation, accelerating innovation in global health, and investing in new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria more quickly, cheaply and effective.
She said in 2017, with support from the NgenIRS project jointly implemented by the AngloGold Ashanti and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink, a total of almost 400,000 homes were sprayed in the Upper East and West regions.
The overall goal of the NgenIRS project, she said, was to “Increase use of 3GIRS products in Insecticide Resistance Management Programmes”, and commended the team for their efforts in making it a reality.
She urged the NMCP and its technical vector control work group, particularly the Malaria and Vector Control Oversight Committee to ensure strict conduct, monitoring and reporting through their quarterly meetings to inform policy decisions.
Mr David McGuire, the Project Director, NgenIRS Project, admitted that the addition of SumiShield 50WG had created the much needed competition in the marketplace, which had led to lower prices and also made it possible for countries to implement sub-national rotation with new classes of chemistry for vector control, which was in line with the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management Vectors (GPIRM) and national insecticide management strategies.
Ms Alexandra Cameron, the Technical Manager, Unitaid, said over 60 countries including Ghana had recorded insecticide resistance to malaria, however “Ghana is the first country in West Africa to implement the 3GIRS in full scale”.
Mr Mr Samuel Asiedu, the Project Director for the AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control Programme (AGAMAL), stressed on the need for sustained supply of the SumiShield 50WG as the new tool for controlling the mosquito vector, and gave the assurance that the project would be expanded to other areas of the country to ensure the total eradication of malaria.
Mr Tsutomu Himeno, the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, praised the production Company, saying they were credible, trustworthy and produced high quality products of international standard.