11% of all maternal deaths in Sierra Leone in 2000 were associated with malaria according to a report from the national referral Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) in Freetown.
A national survey conducted in 1998, also found that 87.1% of pregnant women were anaemic, 70% of which was due to malaria the report said.
In 2004, Sierra Leone adopted the use of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnant women as one of the intervention packages aimed at making pregnancy safer that with the implementation of this goal the risk of women dying during pregnancy will lessen.
Other components of the minimum package include: use of ITNs, Tetanus Toxoid, effective and prompt malaria treatment, treatment and prevention of anaemia including sound nutritional guidance and deworming.
Since then most of the relevant documents have been developed and implementation has started in some districts.
Malaria infection during pregnancy the report noted, poses substantial risk to the mother, her foetus, and the neonate as in 2003, in a study carried out it was revealed that 37.1% of pregnant women had malaria.
“The prevalence of parasitaemia appears greatest in the second trimester, and susceptibility to clinical malaria may persist into early postpartum period. In view of the endemicity and high transmission of malaria in Sierra Leone, pregnant women are susceptible to sub-clinical infections which may result in maternal anaemia and placental parasitaemia, both of which may subsequently lead to low birth weight” the release adds.
The Roll Black Malaria is part of the Strategic Plan for malaria control and prevention in Sierra Leone, as the initiative is to achieve the goal of reducing by half the burden of malaria by 2010 using the available baseline data. The targets are directly related to the Abuja Declaration Targets and also the implementation of the plan is in line with the objective of the National Malaria Control Programme.
The specific objectives of this plan are to address the urgent short to medium term challenges in delivering the minimum package to pregnant women in terms of malaria prevention and control.
The release went on to starte that its primary focus is on scaling up the interventions in all 13 districts in the country and its coverage will be scaled up to 80% over the next three years starting from 2006 to 2008.
This plan which was developed in collaboration with key partners in RBM who will also participate in the implementation process namely WHO and other partners will also see the effective and safe anti-malarial including Artemisinin Based Combination Therapy will be used at all levels of the health system.
IPT which reduces the adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy will be scaled up and that will be complemented by the use of ITNs as Health Education activities will also be promoted.
Stressing that the BCC strategies, to increase awareness of the malaria prevention and control strategies which may result in the adoption of positive behavioural practices will complement efforts to raise the coverage of these interventions and early health seeking behaviour. Malaria is presently the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five years of age.
The entire populace is at risk of developing the disease accounting for over 40.3% of outpatient morbidity, but the most vulnerable include under five year old children, pregnant women, refugees and returnees.