Following a series of alarming disease outbreaks like malaria and dengue fever in the country, the government launched a five-year National Strategy for Vector Control (2019-2024) in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
Speaking on the trend of the diseases, Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu said the country had recorded up to 6.5 million cases and 4,390 deaths due to malaria in 2017.
She cited statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which showed that worldwide there were 216 million new cases and 450,000 deaths being recorded annually due to malaria.
"When dengue fever broke out early this year and created a lot of distress among the people, my fellow ministers in the cabinet were telling me to come up with a strategy to curb the problem.
On the other hand, I told them that the effects of malaria were far worse, therefore, instead of coming with a strategy for dengue fever we should come up with a comprehensive strategy for vector control," noted Ms Mwalimu.
According to her, officials from the ministry did an assessment of vector-borne-diseases like cholera, rift valley, bilharzia, yellow fever, among others, and decided that more should be done in overcoming the diseases.
She, however, pointed out that from January to July this year patients, who were diagnosed and confirmed to have contracted dengue fever were 6,677 and 13 deaths.
"Since 2010 when the disease broke out for the first time in the country the number of patients has never crossed 500, except this year.
Among the regions, where patients were confirmed with the disease Dar es Salaam led by 6,191 cases and 11 deaths, Tanga (325) and one death, Coast Region (115), Morogoro (22) and eight cases in Lindi.
"The rest are Arusha (5), Dodoma (3) and one death, Kagera (2), Singida (2), Ruvuma (2) and one patient for Kilimanjaro," pointed out the minister.
Ms Mwalimu disclosed that since July 1-25, Dar es Salaam recorded six cases of dengue fever, meaning that there had been remarkable progress.
The minister commended the Dar es Salaam Regional Administrative Secretary, the Chief Medical Officer and District Executive Directors for their concerted effort in fighting the disease.
She said all this during a recent meeting with Chinese Deputy Minister for Health Li Bin, who noted that in the past the country had recorded 30 million cases of malaria annually, but after investing in preventive measures since 2017 they had zero cases.
"If China was able to overcome the disease, I believe that Tanzania is going to succeed as well," she said.
In exerting more force to the initiative, the ministry has purchased eight pesticide machines identified as forging machines, which were procured through the assistance of MSD at 29m/- instead of 60m/-.
Ms Mwalimu noted that four machines had already arrived of which three would be distributed to Dar es Salaam Region and one would go to Tanga, taking into consideration that the problem was severe in these areas.
According to her, implementation of the strategy will involve nine areas and more emphasis is laid on community participation to ensure the environment is kept clean and taking part in interventions.
She urged all councils to come up with a plan of procuring the machines in their respective areas for effective implementation of the strategy, which would be rolled out countrywide.
The minister further called upon them to prepare a list of registered individuals or private companies responsible for spraying pesticides in households and other public areas to assure people of the importance of participating in the exercise.
"The ministry has prepared stickers, which will be issued to social gathering areas like bars, lounges, hotels, saloons, among others, to certify that they have been sprayed, therefore, they are mosquito-free to attract more customers.
For his part, Minister of State in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) Selemani Jafo pledged to support the course of action, calling upon all councils to immediately devise suitable models and implement them in their respective areas.
Mr Jafo noted that although Tanzania was a good initiator of good plans, in the long run it failed to implement them successfully and instead other countries borrowed the same plans succeeded.
"I will be very bitter on this. The strategy not only involves health officers, but also everyone from the environment, community development officers and so forth.
"With good preventive measures it means solving budgetary problems of finding solutions for cure and this is a plus to the development of the country," he said.