COVID-19 affecting malaria control in Zimbabwe – official
YBTC News-Zimbabwe has made great strides towards realising its vision of a malaria-free country, although gains could be derailed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Cyclone Idai that ravaged the country in 2019, an official said.
Zimbabwean Vice President and also Minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga said this in a speech to mark the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Day on Wednesday in Harare.
Malaria incidences declined by 83 percent from 139 per 1,000 people in 2000 to 22 per 1,000 people in 2019, while mortality declined by 75 percent from 1,069 deaths in 2003 to 266 deaths in 2019, Chiwenga said.
The SADC Malaria Day, which is celebrated in November every year and delayed this year, is an occasion to raise awareness on the dangers of malaria and to raise resources for the prevention, control, and elimination of malaria.
Chiwenga said Cyclone Idai had destroyed previously sprayed homes and this created conditions conducive to mosquito breeding, thereby increasing the risk of malaria in affected communities.
This saw malaria cases and deaths increase by 15 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in 2019 compared to 2018.
The emergence and rapid spread of COVID -19 in the country in March this year also coincided with the peak malaria transmission period between March and May.
Measures meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including social distancing and restricting movement of people, however, caused the delays in accessing malaria testing and treatment services, especially in the remote areas, he said.
“This created major disruptions in the implementation of malaria prevention and treatment strategies, resulting in an increase in malaria outbreaks in 2020.
“Consequently cumulative malaria cases and deaths from week 1 to 47 increased by 52 per cent from 245,660 in 2019 to 389,101 in 2020, and deaths increased by 58.4 per cent from 260 to 395 over the same period,” Chiwenga said.
Malaria burden in Zimbabwe remains heavy in districts that share borders with Mozambique and Zambia.
These districts and the Masvingo province account for nearly 92 per cent of all malaria cases in the country.
“The high burden is fueled by high population movements across the borders as well as differences in level of implementation of malaria interventions from one country to the other,” Chiwenga said. (Xinhua/NAN)