Malaria on the rise

Malaria cases have risen to 386,505 and claimed 326 lives in the first nine months of 2013 because of delays in the distribution of mosquito nets in Manicaland and Mashonaland Central.

Last year, the disease attacked 331,722 people and killed 204, said Joseph Mberikunashe, the programme manager of the malaria control unit in the Ministry of Health. “Our malaria weekly rapid disease notification system shows that we have a slit increase in both cases and deaths when we compare to last year’s confirmed cases considering that we are in week 35,” he said. More cases were likely before year end as the nation expects an early rainfall season.

“More rain means more breeding places for mosquitoes which drive malaria,” he said. Although Zimbabwe received below average rainfall last season, flash floods in some areas created fertile breeding grounds for malaria. “Due to change of weather patterns we experienced more rains in some drought prone districts of the country, where we do not usually distribute nets.

This led to outbreaks in some districts of Manicaland and Mashonaland Central Provinces,” he said. “Seven districts of the 23 districts that we usually distribute nets only got them in April – towards end of the rainy season.”

Mberikunashe said a rise in cross-border movements also contributed to the surge of malaria cases. “We spray (insecticides) in our border areas to prevent the migration of mosquitoes from neighbouring countries, especially Zambia and Mozambique.”

In April, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed the ZamZim Cross Border Malaria Initiative, meant to coordinate interventions for effective control of the disease in border areas.

Mberikunashe said his department has since received 700,000 mosquito nets from the Presidential Malaria Initiative for distribution before the rains.

“As the 2013-14 rainy season approaches, all districts that require treated mosquito nets have received them. Our teams are in Buhera, Goromonzi, Murewa and Matabeleland North districts where the 700,000 nets will be distributed by November. Spraying will start in October and end in December,” said Mberikunashe.

Since 2002 Zimbabwe has managed to reduce the rate of infection, and in 2010 achieved the Abuja target of a malaria incidence rate of 68 per 1,000 people.

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