Senior Health Reporter
Zimbabwe has achieved significant progress in reducing malaria cases by 79 percent between 2004 and 2020 and is on the path of achieving the goals of the global malaria control strategy.
The nation yesterday joined the rest of the World to celebrate World Malaria Day, which ran under the theme; “Zero Malaria — Draw the Line Against Malaria”.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said it was everyone’s responsibility to stop the spread of malaria and avoid deaths.
“As the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, I recommend the use of appropriate malaria interventions — sleeping under the net, allowing houses to be sprayed and going for testing and treatment of malaria within 24 hours of symptoms. Zero malaria starts with me,” he said.
Malaria remains a killer diseases in Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Care has put in place interventions aimed at reducing malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90 percent by 2030.
The anti-malaria strategy embraces keeping infected mosquitoes away from people, and by reducing the number of people who are infected, cutting the chances of any particular mosquito carrying the illness.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite the progress made in the response to malaria, the African region is still recording a high number of cases and deaths.
WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the African region accounted for 94 percent of both the 229 million malaria cases and 409 000 malaria deaths globally.
However, she said, between 2009 and 2019, malaria incidence declined by 29 percent and deaths by 60 percent.
“More than 1,2 billion cases and 7,1 million deaths were averted in the region. While malaria incidence in the region dropped by nine percent to 10 percent every five years between 2000 and 2015, in the last five years, this has slowed to less than 2 percent.”
She said in 2019, one in three at-risk households did not have an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) and 48 percent of children under-five did not sleep under an ITN.
Among children who sought care for a fever in a health facility, 31 percent did not get tested for malaria, contrary to the WHO recommendation of testing every fever case in endemic areas.
“Two out of three pregnant women did not receive three or more doses of intermittent preventive treatment. Without this protection, there were 11.6 million malaria cases among pregnant women and 822 000 infants with low birth weight reported across 33 countries,” she said.
Dr Moeti said more needed to be done to help at-risk populations for countries to reduce the negative impacts of malaria on health and development.
Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1,3 percent in Africa’s economic growth hence, she said, Africa needed to increase investment towards expanding access to malaria interventions for vulnerable groups.
“This will help the region get back on track towards the global malaria goals of a 90 percent reduction in cases and deaths by 2030. As WHO, we are working with countries to look strategically at the stagnated progress in the past five years.
“Together, we need to move from the perception of malaria as a health problem, to understanding this disease as a threat to socio-economic development that requires a multi-sectoral response. With an all-of-society response to draw the line against malaria, together, we can ensure African societies, economies and individuals, prosper,” said Dr Moeti.