The military in the Economic Community of West African States has expressed support for the war against malaria in the region
THE war declared by ECOWAS against malaria has the total support of the armed forces of all the member states. Vice Admiral Mathew Quashie, chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, CCDS, affirmed this in Accra, Ghana, on Tuesday May 13. “As combatants who have taken the sacred oath to defend our respective nations and people even to the peril of our lives, we see the malaria menace and, indeed, all diseases as constituting environmental health and socio-economic aggression that must be tackled militarily,” declared Quashie, who is also Ghana’s chief of defence staff, at the opening of Training of Trainers’ workshop within the framework of the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign Programme.
He told the participants that malaria and other emerging vector-borne diseases such as Ebola, pandemic flu “are fast replacing wars as the major cause of death of our people, especially the vulnerable groups such as the aged and children. The health, economic and social impact of malaria on any country, particularly developing countries is disastrous,” the CCDS chairman said, adding: “the picture is even more frightening in the face of malaria resistance to the conventional drugs.”
But with the successful elimination of the scourge in some parts of the world, he expressed optimism that “with concerted efforts, we too should achieve the same success in our region.” The chairman noted that one emerging preventive intervention which holds great promise for malaria elimination in West Africa is the use of biolarvicides, biological insecticides that “are the most proven, most widely used and most successful of the known biological pesticides.”
In her address, Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, represented by the chief of staff, ECOWAS Standby Force, Brig.-Gen. Hassan Lai, said the regional workshop on train-the-trainers of the military with the support of technical partners Labiofam/Cuba, is one in a series to prepare the armed forces ahead of the launch of the simultaneous application of biolarvicides on May 28, on the ECOWAS Day.
“The training, coupled with community mobilization and behavioral change campaigns will collectively stop mosquitoes and eliminate malaria from our region,” the commissioner said, adding that the regional training would be followed by training at national levels organised by each ECOWAS member state. “The efficacy of the use of biolarvicides,” the commissioner explained, “is based on a simultaneous application for which the participation of the armed forces is a central pillar and a prerequisite for success as has been seen in countries such as the United States. It is in this respect that the all-important Civilian-Military Collaboration is seen as the core of the Malaria Elimination Campaign in the ECOWAS Region.”
Recalling the endorsement of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government of the recommendations by the Mediation and Security Council and the CCDS for the participation of the military in the war against malaria in the region, Commissioner Suleiman expressed gratitude to Cuba and Venezuela for supporting the ECOWAS malaria elimination campaign under a tripartite agreement for the construction of three biolarvicide factories in Cote, d’Ivoire, Ghana and Port Harcourt, Nigeria to make the product readily available for the mass application across the region.
Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, represented by Kodzo Alabo underscored the need to present a united front against socio-economic malaises, especially a devastating disease such as malaria as part of efforts to promote regional integration. Describing Cuban involvement and support for the ECOWAS anti-malaria campaign as “a win-win relation” and within the framework of the South-South cooperation, Cuban Ambassador to Ghana Jorge Lefebre Nicholas said “every year millions die of malaria and efforts so far undertaken to reverse this alarming situation do not permit a horizon still visible, even to allow a dream of a future without malaria. “Africa deserves the efforts of all and Cuba is ready to fight this battle alongside our brothers and sisters of Africa,’ he assured.
Welcoming the participants to the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, venue of the meeting, Maj.-Gen. Obed Akwa, the Commandant, reminded them that health and the wellbeing of citizens were key elements of peace and security.
In her presentation, Mariane Ngoulla, the health adviser to the President of ECOWAS Commission, gave the background to the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign, which she described as “a war, we can and must win for the benefit of the present and future generations of Africa.”
Apart from representatives of the armed forces of the 15 ECOWAS Member States, the five-day training workshop was attended by health, environment and social communication experts as well as representatives of civil society organizations and the biolarvicide manufacturing company Labiofam/Cuba.