Nations unveil cross-border initiative to fight diseases

Nations unveil cross-border initiative to fight diseases

Source: Nations unveil cross-border initiative to fight diseases | The Herald May 6, 2017

Paidamoyo Chipunza in TETE, Mozambique
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi are working on a collaborative cross-border plan to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases such as cholera and malaria.Presenting reports on current epidemiological situations in their respective countries, health experts attending the cross-border meeting here concurred that both diseases were of public health concern in the southern African region and therefore required concerted efforts to combat them.

Deputy director of public health in the Mozambican Ministry of Health Dr Maria Matsinhe said since the beginning of the year, her country recorded 2 131 cholera cases in Tete, Nampula and Maputo provinces and also Maputo City.

She said over two million cases of malaria were also recorded during the same period. “We also note that some of the cases occurred along the border areas, hence the need to collaborate in all our strategies,” said Dr Matsinhe.

In Malawi, Chikwawa district health officer in the Ministry of Health, Mr Amber Majidu said the country recorded 48 cases of cholera since the beginning of the year.

He said the country’s malaria incidence rate currently stands at 353 per 1000 population, majority of which were recorded along the Zambezi valley. Mr Majidu said there was also need for cross boarder collaboration to effectively monitor and respond to outbreaks of these diseases.

Presenting Zimbabwe’s epidemiological update, deputy director for epidemiological disease and control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Isaac Phiri said the country has so far recorded 1 306 typhoid cases, seven suspected cholera cases and 160 885 malaria cases.

He said while the majority of typhoid cases were concentrated in Harare, there were also sporadic cases along bordering towns. Similarly, Dr Phiri said, there were also cases of cholera and malaria along the border areas.

He said one of the country’s challenges in reducing the further spread of these diseases was the issue of porous borders, which put a strain on existing health facilities.

“Huge, porous borders with free movement of people as they share same culture means there is a strain on the border institutional facility,” he said.

In an interview on the sidelines of the technical meeting, World Health Organisation representative for Mozambique Dr Djamila Khady Cabral said her organisation acknowledged that the issue of outbreaks along the border areas was of public health concern, hence the need to strategise on how best to mitigate the issues.

“This is what we are trying to do at this meeting, to see how best countries can collaborate in their surveillance and response efforts towards these diseases and as usual WHO would be there to provide technical support,” said Dr Cabral.

She said the most important thing in the whole discourse was the health of the patient regardless of where he or she was coming from. “So, we need this agreement and engagement from the countries themselves,” she said.

The technical team is expected to come up with a communiqué on how they are going to collaborate going forward which, they will present to the Health Ministers of the three countries today (yesterday) for possible adoption.

Just last week, Zimbabwe signed another Memorandum of Understanding with Zambia on technical cooperation in malaria control and elimination. The agreement is expected to see the two countries combining efforts to conduct indoor residual spraying on either side of the Zambezi River.

Prior to the signing the country had also signed a similar agreement with Namibia, when President Mugabe hosted Namibian President Dr Hage Geingob.

These agreements in the health sector were mooted against a backdrop of challenges faced by the Sadc region as a result of both malaria and cholera.

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