Cross-border collaboration essential to combating malaria
By Lahja Nashuuta
DURING the observation of the World Malaria Day on April 25, the global community has been called to fast-track efforts to prevent malaria and save lives.
At the beginning of last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted in its annual report that nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria.
The disease was considered to be endemic in 91 countries and territories in 2016, down from 108 in 2000. Most of the change can be attributed to the wide-scale deployment of malaria control interventions.
But the report revealed that Africa still carries the high burden of malaria cases, with the exception of Morocco and Egypt, while Libya is the only country free from malaria.
The continent shoulders about 90 percent of the global malaria burden. But thanks to progress made, case incidences and death rates in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 21 percent and 31 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to WHO.
It is also reported that malaria-related deaths among children under five in sub-Sahara Africa has dramatically decreased. But this progress might be undone by lack of funding for malaria.
Therefore it is imperative that countries in the continent need to team up in order to win this battle.
The SADC Malaria Elemination Eight (E8), is an example of regional collaboration. This is a regional initiative that was formed in 2009 to help coordinate malaria in the eight member countries.
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland banded together to jointly fight malaria, together with Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe who are considered to be middle to high-transmission countries.
Through this collaboration, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland anticipate to eliminate malaria by 2020, while Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe by 2030.
But the elimination of malaria can be accelerated through cross border malaria initiatives. Experts have pointed out that cross-border malaria transmission remains a big challenge. Therefore malaria cannot be eliminated without strong co-operation between neighbours.
For instance, the Zimbabwe-Zambia Cross-Border Malaria Initiative is said to have saved lives of many people from malaria outbreaks since it was launched in 2013.
Angola and Namibia last week launched a similar initiative to address the scourge of malaria.
The two countries made a collaboration pact last Tuesday at Oihole settlement in southern Angola, during the observance of World Malaria Day.
Namibia’ health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku and his Angolan counterpart Luis Gomes Sambo agreed that health authorities in the two neighbours needed to deploy community health workers to educate people in remote areas about the dangers of malaria and how to deal with them.
Haufiku stressed that the two countries needed to “speak the same medical language” in the campaign against malaria. We will not win the fight against malaria if we do things differently”.
These initiatives are in line with the global targets to eradicate malaria by 2030. This includes the World Health Organisation’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 – a 15-year blueprint for all countries working to control and eliminate the disease. The strategy has set ambitious targets that included reducing malaria case incidence and death rates by at least 90 percent, eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries, and preventing the reintroduction of malaria in all countries that are malaria free.