Commemorating SADC Malaria Week 2- 6 November: Let us Fight Malaria

Malaria infected mosquito

In southern Africa, the rainy season typically lasts from October to April and reaches maximum strength between November and March. This is also the malaria transmission season in the region. Therefore, the first week of November every year has been declared as the SADC Malaria Week (2-6 November) which includes the SADC Malaria Day (6 November) aiming to raise awareness and promote partnerships in the fight against the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation plenty has been achieved, but still hundreds of thousands of people continue dying due to poor care. The standards of the health facilities and care in malaria-endemic countries in Africa are by-and-large not yet good enough to accommodate malaria-infected people.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people via the bites of infected mosquitoes. The disease is dangerous, to the extent that up to 219 million cases of illness and 660 000 deaths caused by malaria are reported globally on an annual basis and, out of the 660 000 deaths reported annually, 200 000 of the death cases occur in the SADC region. This implies that malaria remains a major contributor to morbidity and mortality across the region. Pregnant women and children under five are especially vulnerable to malaria.

At the SADC Minister of Health meeting held in January 2015 at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, the SADC Ministers of Health noted that there significant progress is being made in eradicating the trio of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the region, but there is much more that needs to be done especially in investing in health facilities and healthcare. The Ministers also encouraged collaboration between member states in fighting these deadly diseases faced by the region.

Despite the progress that has been made in eliminating malaria continentally, the SADC region remains vulnerable to malaria as 63 percent of people in the region are living in areas that are affected by malaria, and are at risk of getting infected. The SADC region is facing a huge burden compared to other regions as most of the countries in the region are referred to as low-income countries and the national budgets are often insufficient to establish adequate healthcare facilities. Most SADC member states/countries are poverty stricken and many people in these countries cannot even afford daily sustenance; consequently, paying for preventative measures and medication is very difficult for them to protect themselves from malaria.

The battle against malaria can only be won if the communities are mobilised through health education to: recognise the signs and symptoms of malaria; provide more home based treatment; seek treatment when they become ill; and use personal protective measures.

NEPAD-SANBio encourages its member states to commit in investing in actions to eradicate this deadly disease, as well as cross-border collaboration between member countries, because a country that is malaria-free today may not be one in the future since mosquitoes do not need a passport to cross national borders.