Zim's malaria time bomb

Claire Keeton | 09 May 2010
Times LIVE
Zimbabwe and South Africa's Limpopo province are working on an agreement to eliminate malaria on both sides of the Limpopo River.

Top malaria scientist Professor Maureen Coetzee said: "They are in the middle of drafting a trans-Limpopo malaria control application."

The health department in Limpopo, which borders on Zimbabwe, reported an increase in malaria cases in December in the Vhembe and Mopani districts.

Zimbabwe's malaria programme has suffered setbacks in control and research, said Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria.

"For many years Zimbabwe had an excellent malaria control programme and now it is down to almost zero," he said.

The National Institute of Health Research (formerly the Blair Research Institute), which does malaria research, has lost many of its staff and much of its resources.

Tren said: "Since 2000 the malaria control programme has broken down."

This could present a threat to Zimbabwe's neighbours, since people travel with the parasite.

But on the continent as a whole significant progress has been made in "scaling up coverage with key malaria control interventions" according to the latest report on the killer disease, World Malaria Day 2010: Africa Update.

"The momentum to control malaria in Africa is really there,'' said Coetzee, director of the Witwatersrand University/National Institutes of Communicable Diseases malaria entomology research unit in Johannesburg.

"If we take advantage and make a success of this, it will be fantastic for (the people) and the African economy."

Malaria costs Africa more than $40-billion a year in treatment and sick days - 247 million cases were reported in 2008.

"In 2008 malaria caused nearly one million deaths, mostly among African children," said the World Health Organisation.