Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Botswana continues to lead the race towards malaria elimination – WHO

Despite setbacks brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Botswana continued to make considerable strides toward the elimination and reduction of the malaria burden. Data compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that Botswana continued to show reduction in cases in 2021 when compared with 2020, recording a 20.5% decline while South Africa also recorded a 33.7% decline. The World Malaria report released last month in December 2022 shows that Botswana recorded a decrease in the number of malaria cases between 2020 and 2021. “Case reductions were observed in 12 countries: Bhutan, Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nepal, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vanuatue,” states the report.

However there is concern that Botswana’s ambition to achieve certification of malaria elimination could be under threat from indigenous malaria cases and the relatively high malaria case incidence rate. According to WHO: “Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status. WHO grants the certification when a country has demonstrated –with rigorous, credible evidence – that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years.  A country must also demonstrate the capacity to prevent the re-establishment of transmission”.

The World Malaria report shows that case incidence in Botswana increased by more than 40% in 2021. Incidence of malaria is defined as the number of new cases of malaria per 1,000 people at risk each year. “Case incidence increased by 25–40% in Eritrea and Namibia; and increased by 40% or more in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Comoros and Madagascar,” states the report. In terms of malaria deaths in 2021, the report notes that “and increases of 40% or more were reported in Botswana, the Comoros, Eritrea, Madagascar and Sao Tome and Principe”.

President Masisi, on the other hand, is confident that Botswana will be malaria-free by 2025. In his address at the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases in 2022, he said Botswana is on pace to eradicate malaria by the end of 2025 because the government is in a far better position to combat malaria and non-communicable illnesses (NCDs). Botswana experienced a major disruption in the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) due to Covid-19, resulting in the country being unable to distribute ITNs in 2021. “Botswana, the Central African Republic, Chad, Haiti, India, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone did not distribute any of the planned ITNs,” states the report.

Despite some setbacks, the report notes that: “Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa – that are part of the E-2025 continue to lead the race towards malaria elimination within the sub region”. This is despite Botswana having one of the lowest international malaria funding per person at risk. The World malaria report 2022 tracks trends in the global malaria response and the impact of that response in the period 2000–2021. It highlights important barriers to progress, and the resilience needed to overcome them; it also provides the latest information on malaria intervention products.

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