Uganda: Malaria on the rise in Lango

News and Press Release
Originally published
OYAM, 19 November 2008 (IRIN) - There has been an upsurge in the number of malaria cases reported in the sub-region of Lango in northern Uganda due to poor mosquito control, according to health officials.

"In one week this month 1,998 cases of malaria were registered in Lira District [in Lango]," Joel Awio, the Oyam district health officer, told IRIN. Malaria is spread by the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito.

At least 184 of those affected, most of whom were pregnant women and children, were admitted to health centres, Awio said. "Now we have more than 2,000 cases."

The district of Apac, also in Lango, had the highest malaria prevalence in Uganda at 420 per 100,000 people, according to the minister for primary healthcare, Emmanuel Otala.

The national prevalence rate is 260 per 100,000 people, almost triple the global rate of 90 for every 100,000 people.

The districts of Amolatar, Oyam and Dokolo in Lango are also malaria-prone. They are within the Kyoga water basin, which provides an ideal breeding ground for malaria mosquitoes.

Poor mosquito control among local residents as well as a low bed-net coverage have contributed to the high prevalence.

Government efforts to control the disease in Apac and Oyam through indoor residual spraying with the chemical DDT have so far met resistance.

Some local leaders have a "negative perception" of DDT, said Oyam district chairman Charles Okello Engola. Local farming companies have also gone to court demanding that the government stop the indoor residual spraying.

In June, the Uganda high court ordered the suspension of DDT pending a ruling on its use in the north. The focus is now on increasing the number of bed nets and improving access to malaria treatment.

At least 230,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets are to be distributed to children under five, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups in Lango as part of a one-year project by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the government of Japan.

This is expected to increase the proportion of households with at least two bed nets in the region to 70 percent from 9.5 percent and promote the consistent and proper use of nets.

The project will also provide essential medicine and training for community-based health workers, said the Japanese ambassador to Uganda, Kato Keiichi.

This, he said, will bring about a significant drop in malaria cases in the sub-region.

"While other countries have been able to drastically reduce or eliminate cases of malaria, 15 people die of the disease every hour in Uganda," said Richard Nduhuura, Minister of Health.