Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Zambians Optimistic Of Eradicating Malaria

By Paul Shalala in Kalulushi 

Most Zambians are optimistic of eradicating malaria soon, this is according to results of a poll whose results where recently released under a report titled Malaria Futures For Africa.

The report, which was commissioned by Novartis Social Business and released in the second week of April, reveals that Zambians are very optimistic of eradicating malaria.

68 malaria experts in 14 Sub Saharan countries, who included Ministers of Health, lawmakers, non governmental organisations and other stakeholders were interviewed in preparation of this report.

Malaria is one of the diseases which Zambia grapples with.

This is largely due to lack of access to insecticide treated mosquito nets which most people in rural areas cannot afford to buy.

Zambia is endowed with many rivers, lakes and swamps and these water bodies act as breeding grounds for malaria, a disease which is spread by mosquitoes.

The report, which was chaired by Dr Richard Kamwi and Professor Bob Snow, shows that Zambia is among many African countries where residents are optimistic that malaria will be eliminated.

The report also showed that respondents in Zambia are optimistic of the level of funding and domestic policy as well as the political support for the fight against malaria.

But in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, respondents were pessimistic about eradicating the disease.

At the regional level, the report stated that efforts being made were commendable.

"Regional cross border monitoring and outbreak collaborations seem to be working well in East and Southern Africa in controlling malaria and eventually eliminating it," reads the report in part.

Within Zambia, the malaria burden is huge.

The fight against malaria is mainly focused on the continuous use of insecticide treated nets.

The nets are a lifeline for many in the country.

However, some of these nets are abused by fishermen who use them to catch fish.

This trend has been going on for a long time.

When health authorities distribute the nets to fight malaria, fishermen take advantage of them for their fish business.

And during the Copperbelt Provincial commemoration of Malaria Day last week, health authorities revealed that over one million mosquito nets have so far been distributed in all 10 districts to fight the disease.

"In 2017, we distributed 1,600,000 insecticide treated nets across the Copperbelt. This is in an effort to fight malaria. This is an on-going exercise," said Acting Copperbelt Medical Director Dr. Justo Banda.

Dr Banda also disclosed that of all the 10 districts in the province, Kalulushi is the most hit with malaria.

"In 2017, Kalulushi was recording 530 cases of malaria per 1,000 population. This is higher than the provincial average," he added.

Kalulushi is a small mining town which has a number of watheatre bodies and vast forests, perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In this district, authorities are distributing mosquito nets occasionally.

And during the Malaria Day commemorations at Kasamba Grounds, there was a near stampede when dozens of men and women queued to collect free nets which were being given out by officials from the Ministry of Health.

It had to take Police officers to control the crowd for people to collect the nets in an orderly way.

This just shows how desperate the situation is in fighting the disease in the area.

People have challenges in accessing the nets using their own money.

Globally, Malaria is expected to be eradicated by 2030 and in Zambia, the government plans to beat that target by eradicating the disease 10 years earlier.

This is why mosquito nets are being procured and distributed in their millions. 

Zambia belongs to a grouping of eight Southern African countries which are working together to eliminate malaria by 2030.

The grouping, which is called Elimination 8, aims to "Enable and accelerate zero transmission in the four front-line countries by 2020 and the second line countries by 2030 through the provision of a joint platform for collaboration and joint strategic programming."

The eight countries in this grouping are Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland are classified as front-line countries while the rest are considered second-line countries in the fight against malaria.

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