Sunday, September 27, 2020

Africa sub-region calls for collaboration in fight against malaria

Unless Africa, especially its sub region, commits to concerted efforts and collaboration, malaria will continue to haunt and ravage the continent, killing millions of people and posing a serious public health problem in its wake.

Speaking at the Standard Chartered Bank curtain raiser event, organized on last week to unveil the bank’s commitment to preventing and eradicating the deadly disease on the entire African continent, Sir Richard Feacham of Global Health underscored the importance of working together amongst neighbouring countries saying “historically, malaria was the big killer, killing more people than any memorable war and disease”.

A professor at the University of California who is committed to the eradication of malaria across the globe, Feacham said malaria “knows no boundaries” and, as such, needs “exceptional collaboration”, urging the SADC countries to adopt multi-lateral contributions to defeat the disease which, to all intents and purposes, has proved a hard nut to break in the region.

“In order to eradicate the disease, it is important to adopt exceptional cross boarder collaboration and multi-lateral contribution. Malaria knows no boundaries and it is thus vital for neighbouring countries to exert concerted efforts for a malaria-free Africa,” he said, adding that without collective responsibility, the fight against malaria would always be evasive in Africa.

Spurred by the glaring incidences of malaria in Africa and as a way of giving back to the community, Standard Chartered recently embarked on an Africa-wide project, the ‘Nets for life’ project, dedicated to the elimination of malaria in Africa and invited Feacham, the malaria fighter, to officiate at the pre-launch of the Botswana ‘Nets for Life’ campaign.
In Botswana, the ‘Nets for Life’ campaign is headed for Maun in early November. Maun is a commonly infested malaria region where insecticide-treated nets will be distributed.
Feacham has worked in international health and development for 40 years and has published extensively on public health, health policy and development finance.

Currently, he and the Global Health group are working on the design and implementation of malaria elimination programs in southern Africa, including Botswana.

Feacham said that with the Angolan civil war over and replaced with a democratic dispensation and with the Zimbabwe situation heading for normalcy, he was optimistic the incidences of malaria would abate.
He argues that civil wars and political instability displaces inhabitants culminating in the escalating of incidences of malaria.

Feacham urges constant efforts and resources mobilization to liberate Africa from the deadly malaria.
Although preventable, treatable and curable, malaria has sporadically engulfed Botswana during rainy seasons with last year’s episode the worst, killing a significant number of children under the age of 5 years in places uncommon with the disease.
“More than forty years ago, there was optimism about the control of malaria,” said Dr Halabi. “Today, however, we face the prospect of a disease that is growing and spreading into new areas as a result of climate change, population movement and emergence of drug and insecticide resistance.” She added that “the threat posed by malaria today is also more infinitely complex than in earlier times”.

Although the country has not received some rains as yet, already there are signs that the disease could cause yet another terrible disturbance as new outbreaks are reported in Kweneng and Goodhope, places which never used to have a malaria problem.

“Such developments tell us that Botswana is experiencing a resurgence of malaria, which is becoming a global phenomenon that requires concerted efforts to keep malaria under control.”
Echoing the same sentiments expressed by Feacham, Dr Halabi said unless neighbouring countries along the Trans-Zambezi region collaborate and work together, elimination of malaria will not be possible.

“Malaria knows no boarder and these efforts must be harmonised and simultaneously”, she said.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.