Bots malaria death toll rises as drugs run out
> Mpho Tebele
GABORONE – The recent heavy rains which pounded most parts of Botswana resulting in the outbreak of malaria are likely to reverse the gains that the Southern African nation had achieved in the fight against the scourge.
Recently, a release from the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) stated that Botswana was among eight other African countries that have shown commitment and innovation in the fight against the disease and were honoured by ALMA.
“The progress in Botswana shows what is possible when a country and its leaders make malaria a priority,” the release quoted Joy Phumaphi, executive secretary of ALMA as saying.
However, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemele, told Parliament last week that due to the heavy rains, Botswana is experiencing an increase in the number of reported malaria cases. In February this year, Botswana had recorded five cases of malaria deaths. But Makgalemele stated that the number has risen to seven.
“By the beginning of this month (March), we had recorded 627 cases and 7 deaths. About 60 percent of these cases are from Okavango District,” he said adding that the country has also recorded sporadic cases from non-endemic malaria districts in southern Botswana.
According to Makgalemele, malaria transmission period runs from around October to early May.
“Annually, in preparation for this season, my ministry conducts integrated vector control interventions, public education, community mobilisation and capacity building. Drug and commodity availability are also ensured,” he said.
He explained that based on the early warning of normal to above normal rainfall this year by the Meteorological Services, his ministry intensified its efforts to prepare for the eventuality of a possible outbreak.
“We have been monitoring stock levels of our anti-malarials at both Central Medical Stores (CMS) and our health facilities. Most of our health facilities have adequate stock levels of first line anti-malarials,” said the Assistant Minister. However, Makgalemele said a few District Health Management Teams (DHMT’s) have recently reported shortage of Quinine injection which is used for severe cases. He further added that they are expecting a second consignment and additional stocks of this drug and other anti-malarials were expected in the next coming weeks to cater for the increase in cases.
“Central Medical Stores is monitoring the situation by contacting DHMT’s on a daily basis to monitor anti-malarials and anti-diarrhoeals. There has been no staff redistribution based on the outbreak. The National Malaria Control Programme has trained trainers of trainers from all our health districts on malaria case management to train the rest of the staff in their respective districts,” he said.
Makgalemele said the country-wide training was to strengthen case management of health care workers in both Malaria and non-malaria endemic areas.
“Specifically for this particular outbreak, national teams have been dispatched to monitor the situation in the affected districts. Our entomologists are also on the ground supporting the case investigations,” he said.
He highlighted that all DHMT’s have malaria epidemic response teams. “During outbreaks, as is the case, these teams have been reactivated and are meeting on a weekly basis to assess the situation,” he said.
He said due to high population mobility and standing water pools, sporadic cases of malaria can occur in non-endemic areas. My ministry has bought 2 325 Long Lasting Insecticidal Mosquito Nets (LLINS) which continue to be distributed in Malaria endemic districts,” he said.
He said all these nets have and were being distributed in the endemic areas adding that for the quarter ending December 2016, the average drug availability was 86.5 percent.