South Africa target aims for zero malaria infections in 2023

Malaria vaccine closer
Drug resistance a concern in fight to end malaria.(File Photo)

As malaria cases decline globally, South Africa aims to eliminate local infections by 2023. Marking the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Malaria Day events on 6 November, South Africa further pledged to eradicate the deadly disease.

South Africa is malaria prone, with the mosquito-borne illness endemic to parts of Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. Still, malaria has decreased by 78% in the last nine years,  according to the National Department of Health. In 2000, South Africa recorded 64,222 cases. By 2019, that number was reduced to 13,833 cases.

“Whilst many parts of Africa have a high burden of malaria, some southern African countries including South Africa report relatively lower transmission,” the department’s spokesperson Popo Maja said in a statement.

In 2018, an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide, an increase from 231 million cases in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation. Still the number of deaths caused by malaria has decreased, from 585,000 in 2010, to 416,00 in 2018 and 405,000 in 2018.

Regional effort

One of four countries affected by malaria in the region, South Africa is joining SADC’s regional effort to reach zero transmission by 2023. This year the theme is “Community involvement is key to achieving zero malaria.” The aim is to mobilise communities through education.

Communities will be taught to recognise the symptoms of malaria, and provide home-based treatment. The aim is also to educate community members on personal protective measures and when to seek professional medical treatment.

Three-quarters of the population in SADC are at risk of contracting malaria, the WHO estimates. About 35 million children are among this vulnerable group, along with 8.5 million pregnant women.  South Africa’s key challenge is imported cases, underscoring the importance of regional cooperation.

“The key challenge that South Africa faces is a high number of imported cases from travellers and workers entering the country from neighbouring high burden malaria endemic countries,” said Maja.

The Department of Health urged affected communities and travellers to malaria endemic areas to take the necessary precautions. They are also urged to seek treatment if they experience signs and symptoms. The department emphasised that malaria is a preventable and curable disease, when detected early and treated promptly. —Health-e News


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