News & Up­dates:

A section of Members of Parliament have challenged Government to consider the gene drive technologies as a sure means to fighting Malaria, which accounts for an estimated 30,900 deaths in the country annually.

Gene drive is a technology where genetic materials are transferred from parents to unusually high numbers of their offspring due to biased inheritance which is sometimes referred to as the possession of “selfish” genetic materials, according to sources online.

Caused by plasmodium parasites, Malaria is transmitted to humans through infected female anopheles mosquitoes but scientists argue that gene drives technology dramatically increases the likelihood that a particular suite of genes resistant to malaria parasites, will be passed onto the next generation, allowing the genes to rapidly spread through a population.

Several scholars and researchers have over the years approved the use of gene drive technology for malaria control through laboratory tests.

The recommendation to consider gene drive technology came to the fore yesterday during a plenary session deliberating on a motion for a resolution of Parliament to urge Government to strengthen efforts to prevent, control, and eliminate the transmission of Malaria in Uganda.

The Motion was moved by Jinja South County West MP, Dr. Timothy Batuwa and seconded by Kashari North MP Basir Bataringanya, Bugiri District Woman MP, Taaka Agnes, and supported by the whole House.

Batuwa while presenting the motion said that Uganda has one of the highest global cases of malaria and is ranked fourth in the African region with over 90% of the population at risk especially children and pregnant mothers.

He said that malaria is responsible for over 30% of the total outpatient visits and 15% to 20% of all hospital admissions, with a total of 20.4 million cases and a death toll of 30,900 in 2020 alone, including over 70,000 to 100,000 children under five years annually.

He added that malaria causes an average annual economic loss of over $500 million with malaria-related expenses accounting for about 34% of the total expenditure for the poorest sections of the population in the Country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Uganda has the 3rd highest global burden of malaria cases (5%) and the 8th highest level of deaths (3%) while in the East and Southern Africa, malaria proportions account for 23.7%.

Batuwa also recognized the efforts taken by the Government in the fight against malaria, including the formulation of the National Malaria Control Policy 2011, the Third Uganda National Malaria Control Program Strategic Plan, the 2000 Abuja Declaration, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Gool 3 on good health and well-being with good targets including, ending malaria epidemics by 2030.

Additionally, he noted that whereas the Government and other stakeholders had adopted strategies like the use of Mosquito nets and spraying among others to control and eliminate Malaria, these measures have shortcomings that have seen the existence of Malaria to date.

He proposed the use of emerging technologies like gene drive technologies to address the Malaria Problem.

Tororo District Woman MP, Sarah Opendi said that malaria is the leading killer disease in Uganda and appealed to Government to increase the funding for the fight against Malaria on top of the ongoing sensitization initiatives.

Pingire County MP, Fred Opolot said that there was need to fast-track the Malaria Control Bill.

He emphasized the need to establish the Presidential Malaria Trust Fund Uganda whose objective will be to secure predictable and sustainable means of procuring goods and services for malaria prevention and treatment.

The Minister for Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng thanked the legislators for offering solutions to end malaria. She promised to look into the concerns raised by the legislators.

Aceng told the House that the Government will start the implementation of the malaria vaccine at the end of 2023.  She noted that the vaccine would be mainly for children.

She, however, reminded the MPs that the vaccine is not 100 percent effective but, the Government appreciates that it could bring the burden of malaria down.

Other resolutions passed by Parliament included Government increasing the health sector budget for the prevention, control, and elimination of malaria in a predictable manner over the medium term and Parliament tracks all malaria support and presidential pledges for malaria control in Uganda.

The House also resolved to have the Government through the Ministry of Health adopt and spearheads a clear multi-sectoral and relevant stakeholders coordinated mechanism to fight against malaria in Uganda and the Government scale up Malaria preventive programs and innovations, including promotion of awareness among the Malaria, burdened areas.