Intensify fight against malaria

WHILE the world over, all attention seem to be given to HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, malaria remains the biggest killer disease in Africa, killing more than a million people every year, mostly children under the age of five.

A few weeks ago, we reported that the Southern African region is bracing for an increase in cases of malaria disease with Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe issuing fresh alerts while other countries have reported malaria related deaths. The good rains that the region has received this season has worsened the already bad situation and this calls for SADC governments to redouble their efforts to fight the killer disease.

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.

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, was 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.

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

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, was 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.

It is against this background that we urge governments in the countries most affected to continue the concerted efforts, together their co-operating partners, to kick malaria out of Africa.

All the efforts thus far made, it is hoped, should enable a rapid scale up of all interventions to achieve universal access to anti-malaria drugs and mosquito nets, and meet the Abuja targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

African leaders agreed at a summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja in April 2000 on an initiative to Roll Back Malaria. By signing the Declaration to Roll Back Malaria, the leaders committed themselves to an intensive effort to halve the malaria mortality for Africa’s people by 2010, through implementing strategies and actions.

They agreed to catalyse actions at regional level to ensure implementation, monitoring and management of Roll Back Malaria, to initiate actions at country level to provide resources to facilitate realisation of RBM objectives, to work with partners towards stated targets, ensuring the allocation of necessary resources from private and public sectors and from non-governmental organisations; and to create an enabling environment in their countries which would permit increased participation of international partners in malaria control actions. The leaders also called upon all countries to undertake and continue health systems reforms which would promote community participation and joint ownership of Roll Back Malaria actions to enhance their sustainability.

Sadly, very few countries have met the targets towards eliminating malaria 17 years after their leaders signed the Abuja declaration and we therefore call for a total onslaught against malaria, similar to the one on HIV/Aids, as there is certainly no room for complacency. We appreciate that HIV/Aids is a big healthy problem on the continent and huge amounts of funds are needed in the fight against the pandemic, but there is also need to commit more resources towards the fight against malaria.

There is no need for SADC countries to continue losing lives to curable and insect-borne diseases like malaria, which is preventable and curable if treated on time. Numerous campaigns have been held and continue to be carried out to this day as part of efforts to eradicate malaria out of the region and out of Africa.

These are commendable and more funds must be raised be channeled towards the various paraphernalia such as nets and sprays, in the fight against malaria.

April 2017
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