Fighting the Mosquitoes

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By Petronella Sibeene ONDANGWA In the light of the above average rainfall forecast this coming season, Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, has appealed to all Namibians to support health teams who are involved in indoor residual spraying exercises in malaria-prone areas. Kamwi made the appeal when he addressed hundreds of people last Friday at Ondangwa to commemorate SADC Malaria Day 2006. Over 30 million malaria cases with 400 000 deaths are reported per annum worldwide. In Africa, every 30 seconds, a child dies from the disease. In the SADC region, 88 million people live within malaria endemic areas where 14 million children and 4 million pregnant women are at high risk of contracting the disease. Namibia has also not been spared. The 2005 scenario shows that 348 385 clinical cases were reported compared to the past five years when an average of 510 000 cases were recorded. According to Kamwi, such high levels of deaths can be prevented especially that malaria is a preventable, treatable and curable disease. Most deaths related to malaria are caused by delayed administration of effective anti-malarial treatment. While several interventions might exist, the minister stressed that the use of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) will result in more far-reaching results in the southern African region that has approximately 250 000 to 300 000 people dying of malaria each year. He said Namibians should be willing to participate in the anti-malaria campaign to reduce unnecessary deaths. Last year, the average spray coverage ranged from 62% to 82% in the malaria-affected areas. Although the country needs to achieve a minimum of 80% spray coverage, the minister said, one of the main reasons for not achieving the optimal coverage was a lack of community compliance with spray teams to have their houses sprayed. The minister urged all health officials and community leaders to raise awareness and ensure good understanding of why houses need to be sprayed. Spraying of houses in malaria areas started last month. Each malaria-prone area, namely Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kunene, Caprivi, Kavango, and Otjozondjupa has its own spraying team, Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry Kalumbi Shangula confirmed. The exercise is expected to end by January 2007. “Let us accept the challenge of increasing the coverage to 90% during this current spraying operation,” the minister said. Acting Chief Director of the SADC Secretariat Remmy Makumbe, who formed part of the SADC ministers of health delegation recently in the country, supported Kamwi’s sentiments, saying that all regional citizens must strive to make a difference. Most people are often at greater risk of vector contact infection owing to their physical proximity to water sources and lowered capacity to use health services and preventive measures against the disease. Through the use of DDT, some countries in SADC have demonstrated successes in reducing malaria morbidity and mortality. “Through scaling up vector control activities through the use of DDT, some countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) have managed to reduce malaria transmission to near elimination levels,” he acknowledged. Makumbe encouraged member states in the region to do more advocacy and document the benefits of DDT use in house spraying. During the commemoration, Chairperson of the SADC Committee of Health Ministers Motloheloa Mpooko officially launched the cross-border malaria initiative that covers the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The military infection in the region, according to the coordinator of malaria initiatives in SADC’s Military Health Services Kaka Mudambo, is common given the nature of military work that demands a lot of movement. “In the military we view the disease as an enemy. We should ‘shoot malaria’,” he said. Cross-border initiatives have proved to be effective. Evident is the progress that Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa have made after implementing a similar programme. “This programme has shown malaria case reduction of up to 90% in the malaria implementing districts of KwaZulu Natal and Swaziland and 70% reduction in Mozambique,” reported Mpooko.