SADC health ministers mark Malaria Day

Gabi Khumalo | 16 Nov 2008
Health ministers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) marked Malaria Day on Friday by spraying houses at Mamfene Village in Northern KwaZulu-Natal with DDT pesticide.

Spraying houses with pesticide is one of the easiest ways in which malaria, a disease which kills hundreds of people in the region every year, can be prevented.

Swaziland's Health Minister Benedict Xaba said malaria-endemic countries were caught in a vicious cycle of disease and poverty, which slowed the country's economic growth, discouraged foreign investment and tourism and affected the development of internal trade and people's choices of economic activities.

However, he acknowledged increased investments being made and political commitment at country, regional, continental and international levels and a significant decline in the parasite prevalence since the commencement of the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative which promotes the use of indoor residual spraying.

The intervention is a combined efforts between South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, said Minister Xaba, speaking on behalf of SADC Committee of Health Ministers Chairperson and South African Minister of Health Barbara Hogan.

The parasite prevalence in Mozambique's Maputo province was over 60 percent in 1999, but this has declined to well below five percent by 2008.

"Compared to the year 2000 baseline surveys, malaria incidence has been reduced by more than 90 percent in KwaZulu-Natal and more than 70 percent in Swaziland, as a result of this intervention tourism in the area has increased particularly with the Greater St Lucia area being declared malaria free in 2003," Minister Xaba said.

He emphasised the need to expand regional prevention initiatives, noting that the committee had started to implement the Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe Cross Border initiative known as the Trans Zambezi Cross Border Initiative.

Speaking to BuaNews after his house was sprayed with pesticide, Aaron Motha, 64, said he and his wife were survivors of malaria.

He urged people to use DDT to protect themselves against the disease and go to the hospital as soon as they do not feel well.

"I didn't know that we were infected with malaria, we thought it was flu or someone has bewitched us until we went to Obonjeni Hospital and diagnosed with the disease, we stayed in bed for almost two months before we fully recovered.

"I urged people to look out for the malaria signs and symptoms in order to seek help before it's too late because the disease kills," Mr Motha told BuaNews.

Symptoms of malaria included fever, flu-like, which are the most common, headache, sweating, tiredness, myalgia, abdominal pains, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Neliswa Nkonyeni said the different intervention strategies for malaria control has brought the low incidence of malaria in the province with a total of 774 and 606 cases notified in the two previous financial years.

She noted, however, the extreme vulnerability of the province to severe malaria epidemics was evident in 1999/2000 when over 40 000 malaria cases were notified in the province.

Through the use of DDT the province has experienced a reduction of more than 90 percent in the notified malaria cases from 2001 to 2007 as well as a decrease of over 95 percent of deaths compared to deaths during the same period.

"This achievement exceeds by far the goal of half malaria morbidity and mortality by 2010 in terms of the Millennium Development Goals.