Malaria a problem for armies in Southern Africa

Staff Writers | 29 Aug 2006
People's Daily

Military forces of southern African countries now have identified a new enemy and are planning to fight -- malaria.

Military representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states convened at Namibia's capital city of Windhoek on Monday to discuss malaria management in armies, the Namibian Press Agency (NAMPA) reported from Windhoek.

Major General Charles Shalumbu, Chief of Staff of the Namibia Defence Force (NDF), told the meeting that although attempts had been made in some military forces within the SADC for using prophylaxis prior and during operations, it has not been fully practiced hence the increase in malaria cases on arrival from operations.

These increased the risk of import and export of malaria across the region's borders while it is a threat to national, regional and global public health and security, he said.

SADC defence forces are often deployed at short notice for national and international security from usually malaria free areas to operate temporarily or on long term in malaria endemic zones.

The military may at times be the only service providing access to civilian populations and refugees to malaria control interventions in conflict zones. The high numbers of cases reinforce concerns regarding malaria prophylaxis, the estimated risk for infection and the need for prompt recognition and treatment of malaria in military personnel, the meeting was told.

Shalumbu said the military needs to understand and take advantage of current knowledge in malaria control including surveillance and geographical reconnaissance before deployment, advocacy and promotion, prevention and treatment.