World beating back malaria

Tuyeimo Haidula, CNS Correspondent, Namibia
“Reducing and eliminating malaria is unequivocally one of the best buys in the global health”, said Dr Tim France, Team Leader for External Communications, Asia Pacific Leaders' Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and Managing Director, Inis Communication, while speaking during a webinar last month. The webinar was held on progress made (or lack of) towards ending TB, malaria and Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) by 2030 (or earlier).

Governments have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals one of which is to end TB and malaria by 2030. France said that malaria burden in the Asia Pacific region has been halved in the last 15 years. "So we are moving incredibly quickly. But it still imposes a huge drain on health resources; it also degrades productivity, undermines household income and keeps children out of school," he said. He pointed out that close to 50,000 people die from malaria annually in Asia Pacific with the potential for this to increase should there be a resurgence. "We have been at the point where malaria looked beaten before, but over and over again we have seen resurgence of the disease. Two billion people remain at risk across the region.” “Today, we also face the risk of multidrug-resistant malaria that has emerged in the Mekong region. Malaria, which is resistant to artemisinin drug of today’s front-line malaria treatment, has been detected as far east as Cambodia and as far west as Myanmar,” Dr France said.

Governments committed to eliminate malaria by 2030

An Asia Pacific free of malaria by 2030 is only achievable if the problem of multi-drug resistance is vigorously addressed in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Dr Tim France said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the best way to remove the risk of drug-resistant malaria is to remove malaria altogether. In November last year, the regional heads of states adopted the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Roadmap at the East Asia Summit. This aligns with national malaria strategies and key global plans including: WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030; WHO Greater Mekong Subregion Elimination Strategy 2015-2030; and the Roll Back Malaria Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria. All these efforts will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “In the first phase, 6 countries that have successfully reduced the disease to low levels should achieve elimination. Simultaneously, we need to rapidly scale-up and sustain our efforts in the Mekong to eliminate multi-drug resistant malaria already present. If these national malaria plans are adequately supported, 5 more countries will be able to achieve elimination by 2025,” he said.

Eliminating malaria is attainable

Meanwhile, Namibian ambassador of the Malaria Elimination Initiative (E8) Dr Richard Kamwi says that the goal to eliminate malaria is not a far-fetched ambition, but an attainable goal. In a recent interview with CNS (Citizen News Service), Dr Kamwi informed that the southern African E8 member states that target to eliminate malaria by 2020 are Botswana and Swaziland. Those planning to eliminate malaria by 2030 are Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. “Swaziland has managed to interrupt local mosquito borne malaria transmission. Botswana also has very few cases. Continued measures are required to prevent re-establishment of transmission to reach the finish line,” he said. Namibia has had a 96% decline in malaria cases from 2010 until 2014.This year in 2016, Kamwi said unfortunately there was an outbreak but it has been contained. In February 2016 health officials in the Ohangwena region recorded a total of 427 cases and several fatalities. That figure included 177 cases reported at the Eenhana District Hospital, 175 at the Engela and 75 cases at the Okongo district hospitals. “We have effectively mobilised close to N$300 million for 2016-2018 from the Global Fund and the University of California to support this important regional goal. Let us all strive to eliminate malaria from Africa,” Kamwi added.

The WHO’s country representative in Namibia, Monir Islam, also said that malaria is no longer the leading cause of death among children in sub-saharan Africa.

Tuyeimo Haidula, Citizen News Service - CNS
17 September 2016