Maputo — Malaria remains one of the main public health problems in Mozambique, with between four and six million cases notified a year, according to Health Minister Nazira Abdula, cited in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
Speaking on Monday in Chimoio, capital of the central province of Manica, where she was launching a national anti-malaria communication campaign, Abdula said that so far this year, 5,591,391 cases of the disease have been diagnosed, with 754 deaths.
In 2016, there were fewer cases, but more deaths - 4,612,514 people were diagnosed with the diseases and 900 of them died.
The current campaign, Abdula said, was intended to raise knowledge of the disease and measures that can be taken to prevent it.
The main problem, she argued, is that people are used to living alongside malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and do not regard the insects as life threatening. Instead they take the fatalistic view that malaria is just part of their lives, that it is normal to catch the disease, and that with treatment it will be cured.
“Although many of us are aware that malaria is an avoidable, curable, but deadly disease, we are reluctant to use the interventions available that can prevent it”, said Abdula.
She stressed the importance of sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. But in many cases, people claim they feel “lack of air” when they sleep under netting. In other cases, the priority in using mosquito nets goes, not to the people most at risk (children and pregnant women), but to the male head of the household.
The national campaign to distribute mosquito nets was launched in 2016 with a target to distribute 16 million bed nets. To date, 12 million nets have been distributed in the central and northern provinces, and as from next month the campaign will move to the south.
Abdula pointed out that each net costs 210 meticais (about 3.5 US dollars), and so total investment in the campaign is about 3.36 billion meticais. But the nets will not prevent malaria, unless they are used correctly, she warned.
Using the nets should go alongside complementary measures such as eliminating pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed, and blocking holes or cracks through which mosquitoes can enter houses.
The nets must not be used for such purposes as fishing, Abdula insisted. When mosquito nets are transformed into fishing nets, not only are they not preventing malaria, but they are also devastating the marine environment.
She called on community and religious leaders, teachers, journalists, civil servants and the public at large to become involved in the communication campaign to defeat malaria. Abdula wanted to see information on malaria included in the school curriculum, and regular radio programmes on the disease and how to prevent it.