Malaria infections decline sharply in Limpopo

Malaria infections decline sharply in LimpopoMalaria-carrying mosquito. (File Photo)

If handled correctly, malaria could be eradicated within a generation, a newly released report finds.

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Malaria infections and deaths in Limpopo has significantly dropped by 65% and 76% respectively between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 season, according to the provincial department of health. 

This comes a week after to a new report published by The Lancet Commission indicating the eradication of malaria is possible within a generation. 

Despite the decline, the provincial health department says in the 2017/18 season the province registered nearly 20 000 infections with 160 patients losing their lives.

Progress

Limpopo Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana says there has been considerable progress over the past 15 years in reducing the incidences of malaria in the province.

“While malaria remained at between 3 000 to 8 000 cases per year, 2017/18 saw a dramatic upsurge in malaria, with 18 977 cases and 160 deaths reported that season. The department was able to turn the situation around, with 6 606 cases and 38 deaths reported in 2018/19. This represents a 65% decline in cases and 76% declines in deaths,” Shikwambana says.

The report

According to The Lancet report, eradicating the disease can be achieved as early as 2050. It has identified ways to or accelerates the decline in malaria cases worldwide.

The commission says the world must improve the management and implementation of current malaria control programmes and make better use of existing tools – what it refers to as the “software of eradication”. It has also highlighted the improvement of “hardware of eradication” by developing and rolling out innovative new tools to overcome the biological challenges to eradication. 

“Malaria endemic countries and donors must provide the financial investment needed to ultimately rid the world of this disease,” the report indicates. “While the cost of malaria eradication is unknown—the Commission suggests that an annual increase of approximately US$2 billion will greatly accelerate progress. When combined with the increasing commitment and ambition by endemic countries and regions and strengthened leadership and accountability, these actions will propel us towards a world without malaria by 2050 or sooner.”

Local decline

Shikwambana says that the department is gearing towards the elimination of malaria in the province.  Currently, indoor residual spraying is in a process where over 900 000 households will be disinfected to kill anopheles mosquitoes to curb the spread of the disease.

“This activity takes place in the first half of summer, as a preventative intervention, with the plan to spray 933 000 houses this year. The department wants to use this opportunity to urge community members to participate and collaborate with the malaria spraying team,” he says. He adds that 365 seasonal workers have been hired to fight malaria this season. 

A key challenge, says Shikwambana, is that South Africa would face imported cases of malaria from travellers and workers entering the country from neighbouring high-burden malaria-endemic countries. 

Time to capitalise

Limpopo Malaria Institute chairperson, Erick Mabunda reiterates that they would like to reduce the current decline even further. 

“We saw the decline last season and we would like to take advantage of that and reduce it further by 50%. Hence we started early with the spraying and the focus is on the high-risk areas in Vhembe and Mopani district,” Mabunda says.

Creating awareness

Despite the preventative method to eliminate the spread of malaria, there are some who are not familiar with the symptoms nor dangers of malaria. There are calls for increased awareness campaigns.

Mpho Gafane (30) from Topanama Village says: “I heard of malaria but I don’t have in-depth knowledge about it and I don’t even know its symptoms. I wish they [Department of Health] could do more of malaria campaigns so that I, and other people like me, could learn more it.”

Molate Mohale (25) and Thabo Mashao also from Topanama Village reiterated that though they know about it, they’re also unfamiliar with the malaria symptoms.  

“They should come to communities and inform us clearly about their symptoms and dangers. I personally am not aware of symptoms, I could be sitting here having it,” says Mohale.

“I think they should even go to schools and organise door to door campaigns to inform us,” Mashao adds. – Health-e News