Windhoek — The World Health Organisation has launched a new programme titled 'T3: Test. Treat. Track' aimed at scaling up the diagnostic testing and surveillance of malaria.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who launched the programme in the capital on Tuesday, also released the WHO Global Disease Surveillance Guidelines for Malaria Control and Malaria Elimination on the same day.
The T3 programme will support malaria-endemic countries in their efforts to achieve universal coverage with diagnostic testing and anti-malarial treatment, as well as strengthen their malaria surveillance systems.
The programme aims to focus the attention of policy-makers and donors on the importance of adopting the WHO's latest evidence-based recommendations on diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance.
In her remarks at the launch, Chan said there has been an increase in the use of mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) since the year 2000. The number of malaria cases have been reduced by half since then. Namibia is one of the leading countries in the fight against malaria and has managed to reduce malaria cases by more than 50 per cent, alongside South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland.
"Progress is fragile, but not yet good enough," said the WHO Director-General.
Ninety-nine countries around the world have ongoing malaria transmission, and as many as 3.3 billion people are at risk of being infected. The two surveillance guides will boost these countries' ability to make further inroads and improve their ability to measure progress as to how far they have come to strengthen diagnostic testing and treatment, she said.
According to Chan, there is a need to step up malaria surveillance, particularly to know where transmission is still occurring. She also said rapid diagnosis tests are now available.
"The countries seeking to eliminate malaria must ensure that nearby cases are identified and must be ready to move like firefighters," she stressed.
Meanwhile, Health and Social Services (MOHSS) Minister Dr Richard Kamwi said: "Malaria programmes have been eagerly waiting for these guidelines for the past few years, particularly countries in Southern Africa who are already moving towards malaria pre-elimination, including Namibia."
He noted that as countries aim at reducing the burden of the disease, close monitoring and evaluation of progress becomes an important component of programme management.
Malaria deaths in Namibia have declined from 776 in 2000 to 35 in 2011, which represents a 95 per cent reduction in mortality. Encouraged by these remarkable achievements, the minister said, Namibia is now pursuing the dream of a malaria-free generation by 2020.
The launch of these guidelines has come at a very crucial time - while Namibia is designing and testing its malaria surveillance system to respond to the additional requirements of malaria elimination and pre-elimination.