Africa’s Protracted Fight With Malaria

On World Malaria Day, the WHO said six African countries be could free of the disease by 2020. Despite this ray of hope, the statistics are still grim and the disease deadly, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the Gache Gache clinic in the remote town of Kariba, 360 kilometers (224 miles) northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe, nurse Gadzirai Matem is treating malaria patients. He told DW he has seen a drop in the number of malaria cases though they tend to rise in the rain season. They have to ration mosquito nets because resources are limited.

"Sometimes we are forced to screen recipients and focus on children under the age of five and pregnant mothers because they are at high risk of contracting malaria," he told.

WHO report

In a report marking World Malaria Day (25.04.2016), the World Health Organization (WHO) said six African countries - Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa and Swaziland - could be free of malaria by the end of the decade.

South Africa has seen a five-fold decline in the number of malaria cases since 2000 when the country registered 64,000 cases: By 2014 the number had fallen to 11,700. Most of the diagnoses came from areas bordering Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe has also said it wishes to eliminate malaria by 2020, though it is not on the WHO's list of African nations tipped to reach this target.

One local Kariba resident told DW that when you go to a hospital or clinic there "you are tested for everything including malaria because they know this area is malaria prone."

Visiting a clinic is not always easy. Roads are inaccessible during the rainy season and health workers are forced to rely on boats to ferry patients across the lake to Kariba town.

Selling free mosquito nets

The central African nation of Cameroon is also struggling with malaria. Minister of Health Andre Mamma Fouda told DW that out 600,000 patients who sought consultation and treatment recently, 75 percent (450,000) were found to be suffering from malaria "which shows the gravity of malaria in Cameroon."

He also explained what the country was doing to combat the disease. "We are now equipping our hospitals with rapid diagnostic testing and anti-malaria drugs at subsidized rates." Cameroon also says it is distributing mosquito nets treated with insecticide free of charge to stop people from becoming infected. But local media accuse hospital staff of selling the nets in Chad and Nigeria where people have to pay for them.

Founda said that this year's fatalities from malaria in Cameroon this year included more than 2,000 people, mostly women and children, who had fled to the north of the country hoping to escape the Boko Haram insurgency.

Another instance of public health deteriorating while conflict rages is South Sudan. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the country experienced an unprecedented malaria outbreak in 2015, worsened by shortages of anti-malarial drugs.

Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. The most deadly malaria parasite and the most prevalent in Africa is Plasmodium falciparum. The first symptoms - fever, headache, chills and vomiting - usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. Without prompt treatment, Plasmodium falciparum malaria can progress to sever illness and death, the WHO says on its website.

SOURCE: Deutsche Welle