SADC E8 to Develop Framework on Malaria

Wezi Tjaronda | 05 Mar 2009
New Era (Windhoek)
Health ministers of the SADC Elimination 8 countries have called on SADC to develop a costed framework for cross-border malaria collaboration among the E8 countries within one year.

The health ministers met in Windhoek for a two-day Malaria Elimination 8 Ministerial meeting, which ended on Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a functional mechanism for malaria elimination support according to the needs of the front line and second line groups of countries, agree on a framework for financing and commit to supporting key cross-border initiatives which will move the region's elimination agenda forward.

The E8 countries include four frontline countries - Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland and their second line counterparts, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique. The ministers resolved that the regional body should harmonise case management vector control and surveillance strategies across member states and also assess the feasibility of joint procurement and local production of DDT to facilitate Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) implementation.

The meeting was the first in a series of consultations among the ministers, which is intended to lead to the practical implementation of steps by the National Malaria Control Programmes, regional institutions and their technical partners.

Health and Social Services Minister, Dr Richard Kamwi, said within one year, the SADC E8 countries would strengthen the existing cross-border collaboration and establish additional initiatives between front line and second line countries.

Although the front line countries were the only countries earmarked by the World Health Organisation for elimination due to their low transmission status and other favourable epidemiological and climatic conditions, neighbours with higher transmission are critical in elimination strategies because malaria vectors know no borders.

He said the countries would raise funds to scale up malaria control interventions in the second line countries and build healthy system capacity to implement, sustain, monitor and evaluate malaria elimination programmes.

The region reports 20 million episodes of malaria and between 300 000 and 400 000 malaria-related deaths every year.

In the past few years, however, Kamwi said there was progress in that the countries had managed to reduce the malaria burden through several interventions including IRS, insecticide treated nets and rapid diagnostic tests.

In Namibia, malaria is among the top three killer diseases. It is the number one cause of morbidity in Kavango, Caprivi and the four north-central regions of Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto.

In Zambia, the disease is also the highest cause of morbidity and the second highest cause of mortality.

Zambia's deputy minister of health, Mwendoi Akakandelwa, said putting efforts together as a region would eliminate the problem and eventually eradicate malaria.

Swaziland's minister of health, Benedict Xaba, said his country has lowered malaria incidences over the years.

Statistics show that collaboration between Swaziland and South Africa through the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative has seen a reduction in prevalence rates by more than 90 percent in target areas.

However, the countries have no concrete budget to carry out the exercise. Kamwi said they would approach development partners to provide financial and technical support for malaria elimination efforts in frontline countries.

The ministers will meet within one year to review progress on the implementation of the action plans.