Southern Africa: Malaria Cases Surge in SADC

Woman taking a malaria test (file photo).

THE Southern African Development Community has recorded a 40% increase in malaria cases since 2015.

Former Namibian health minister Richard Kamwi, who is the Elimination 8 (E8) ambassador, last Thursday stressed the need for collaboration and unity, not only to treat cases of malaria, but also to eradicate it.

This increase comes after SADC countries recorded a decrease in malaria cases between 2010 and 2014.

Namibia reported 17 000 cases of malaria during the first quarter of this year, with the Zambezi, Kavango East and West and Ohangwena regions being the most affected.

Kamwi, who was addressing a side-event on malaria during the SADC heads of state and government summit in Windhoek last week, said malaria affects those most vulnerable in society, and this includes women and children. Elimination 8 is an initiative in which health ministers from SADC members Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe joined hands back in 2007 to eliminate one of sub-Saharan Africa's deadliest diseases. The World Health Organisation has recorded over 216 million cases of malaria worldwide, and 445 000 deaths are attributed to the disease.

Due to that fact, Elimination 8 moved to set up mobile border clinics for testing and treatment, which have reached over 300 000 people thus far.

Kamwi said a reduction in malaria cases will affect the growth of African economies, reduce the health sector bill, increase tourism and reduce poverty rates as people are healthier to work and perform better.

Speaking at the same event, international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said recognising the need to learn from one another as SADC member states regarding progress and failures in the fight against malaria can lead to successes.

"We know malaria claims more lives in sub-Saharan Africa than any other disease, and yet we do not know that malaria is preventable and curable.

"Therefore, why should we continue to allow the most vulnerable members of our society, especially children under five and pregnant women, to die from a disease that we have the means to eliminate? If we work together, we can certainly achieve more," she stressed.

A report titled 'Malaria Future for Africa' states that there were some mixed feelings on whether SADC countries will eradicate malaria by 2030, and respondents from Namibia stressed the need for funding.

"All interviews stressed the need for stable funding to keep programmes on track and provide continuity. Namibia, for example, is planning to strengthen its health services management systems, which they believe will support the fight against malaria," read the report. Documents on the Elimination 8 website show that there have been various impacts by the movement since its inception in 2007, leading to the establishment of facilities at 46 border posts to provide critical health services to mobile and migrant populations.

"They were also reducing the reservoir of infectious parasites that would otherwise be carried over the border into lower transmission areas," the report added.

Additionally, the movement has also mobilised over N$22 million for regional elimination, including contributions from E8 countries and the SADC secretariat.

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