Region braces for upsurge in malaria cases

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE -The Southern African region is bracing for increase in cases of malaria disease outbreak with Botswana and Zimbabwe issuing fresh alerts while other countries have reported malaria related deaths.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness in Botswana has warned that the country is experiencing a high level of malaria, following the recent heavy rains.

The country has since received five 4×4 Ford Ranger vehicles from the Southern African Malaria Elimination 8 (E8) initiative.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, former minister of health in Namibia, who is also E8 Ambassador, Dr Richard Kamwi, said there was no way a country could eradicate or eliminate malaria without transport and financial resources.

For her part, Botswana’s Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcus Makgato said through the partnership with E8, the national malaria programme would increase access to adequate testing and treatment services in border locations of the region by providing health care services to migrant populations as well as local communities.

In Zimbabwe, that country’s Ministry of Health and Child Care has recorded at least 89,000 new cases of malaria in the past two months.

Malaria programme manager, Joseph Mberikunashe, is quoted in the media as saying that the recent heavy rains had seen a spike in malaria cases while floods had made it difficult to access certain affected areas around the country.

“As the transmission of malaria depends on humidity, the recent heavy rains mean that there will be more breeding ground for malaria and many more communities are now exposed to the disease, including artisanal miners who sleep in the open,” Mberikunashe was quoted as saying.

In South Africa, the Limpopo Health Department has also announced an increase in the number or reported malaria cases in the province, particularly around Lephalale and Thabazimbi, media reports show.

According to News42, the Limpopo health department on 14 March confirmed at least 46 cases of malaria had been reported in the western Waterberg district around Lephalale and Thabazimbi.  The department’s spokesperson Thabiso Tefo stated no fatalities had been reported, thus far.

“It is an area that does not normally have malaria mosquitoes. We also worried that 70 percent of the cases reported were people who had not travelled. It means they had contracted malaria in the area they stay,” he said.

In Namibia, 15 people are reported have died in a fresh malaria outbreak, and another 6,000 people have been affected, the government said in a new report.

Namibia’s health minister, Dr Bernard Haufiku, is quoted as appealing for additional funding to further prevention efforts. He is seeking an additional R7 million to support regional teams to help diagnose and treat malaria patients. The deployment of additional funding and resources begins immediately and is planned to run through May 13.

In January this year, the Angolan government confirmed more than 700 malaria-related deaths there, with more than 260,000 cases in the past year. Public health officials are concerned over the massive spike in cases, as well as their battle with cholera and yellow fever.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria remains a disease of public health significance in the SADC region. It is responsible for 20 percent of childhood deaths and in excess of 30 percent and 40 percent of outpatient visits and hospitalisations, respectively.

WHO has estimated that three quarters of the population residing in this region is at risk of contracting malaria, including 35 million children younger than five years of age and approximately 8.5 million pregnant women.

March 2017
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