By Aramata Jatta
Health is fundamental human rights, during the strike of Covid-19 pandemic in the Gambia; all focus has been centered on the virus. This has created fear among the general public and many have stopped visiting the hospital to seek medical attention when they fall sick, with the fear that they will be diagnosed with the virus.
Fatou Sarr, a resident of Tallinding explained how she almost lost her 11 year old son to malaria due to the fear of Covid-19.
”When my son started showing sign and symptoms of malaria which are similar to Covid-19, I was scared of taking him to the hospital because I was afraid that he will be tested positive of the virus so I gave him some pain reliefs which I got from the pharmacy”.
”As days pass by his condition got worse, I went to the neighbors house and got some herbs for him upon given him those herb he start vomiting and coughing throughout the night and we could not sleep.”
He fainted in the late hours of the night and we rushed him to Kanifing General Hospital, when we got there they fix some drips on him and we were told he has malaria, I regretted not taking him earlier to the hospital as he almost died because of my ignorance but I have learnt my lesson”.
Malaria is a life threatening disease caused by plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female anopheles mosquitoes called the malaria vectors.
Children under the age of 5years are the most vulnerable group affected, Malaria symptoms usually appear 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bite, with high fever, shaking chills, flu-like illness and headache.
Early diagnosis and treatments of malaria reduces disease, prevents deaths and also contributes to reducing transmission.
Balla Kandeh, Programme Manager National Malaria Control Unit Ministry of Health, comfirmed to this newspaper that Malaria has common symptoms with Covid-19 such as fever, high body temperature, breathing diffulities, tiredness and headache. This he said may lead to misdiagnosis of malaria for Covid -19 particularly when clinician relies mainly on symptoms before diagnosis
However Kandeh outlined numerous challenges imposed by Covid-19 on the implementation of their malaria campaign by going around communities to give drugs to children aged 3-59months to prevent them from malaria complications.
This campaign is within the period of 4months every year which starts in July and ends in November
”When Covid-19 came, we found it very difficult to have access to those children for the fact that mothers and guardians have the fear that health workers are potential carriers of the virus. So whenever they see us coming they will tend to hide their children and refused for them to take the drugs”.
Since Covid is mostly common in the health facilities therefore this parents don’t want to interact with the health workers
Balla said when this drugs were been giving out some time ago, there was a whatsapp message circulating which went viral alleging that the drugs which are been given to the children are contaminated with Covid-19 and mothers started to dodge away.
For the fact that some of the children are not taking the drugs, the chances of them being protected is very low and eventually they will be exposed to severe malaria cases if they get infected.
He said when children take this drugs they experience bodily reactions of high body temperature and they would even vomit. This he said is always displeasing to parents.
”Sometimes that’s the consequences of taking these drugs, every drug has an advantage and disadvantages and it also shows some side effects”.
He implored parents to accept the realities that some of these drugs have side effects and to report to the nearest health facility if it gets severe.
‘‘We are going to continue giving those drugs therefore, we are urging all the mothers and care givers to come forward so their children can take the drugs”.
” we have also realised that even though, we are continuously distributing the insecticide bed nets at health center level free of charge as global fund is sponsoring it, people are not coming to the facility to get the bed nets.
With the fear that when they come to the health facility they will be infected with the virus, therefore we reach out to them and distribute the nets similarly we also spray households in various communities”.
The two forms of vector control are insecticide treatment of mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying. Sleeping under an insecticide treated net can reduce contact between mosquitoes and humans and also prevents malaria.
”There are different diseases in our society and covid is one of them, but we still have malaria on the other side, if we have drugs availed for the treatment of malaria cases and also diagnosis to test whether you have malaria or not and also if the nets and are viable it’s important that parents utilize this important resources.
Kandeh concluded that ”If your child take the drug during the campaign, and has side effects please go and report to the nearest facility and note that it’s not alarming as it will stop eventually after a day or two.