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Zimbabwe Fears Resurgence of Malaria Disease

Malaria mortality rates, 2000 - 2012
The head of the National Malaria Control Department says despite achievements made in combating malaria, there can be a resurgence of the disease in the country if efforts to fight it are not sustained.

In an interview with Studio 7 at the end of a three-day national stakeholders planning meeting in Gweru, program manager Dr. Joseph Mberikunashe said it is possible for Zimbabwe to experience a malaria resurgence as new cases are now being recorded in some former malaria-free areas in the country.

He explained that the national malaria control programme targets public areas and in a place like Goromonzi, which was predominantly a white commercial farming area, private interventions that used to be carried out by the owners are no longer being done.

Dr. Mberikunashe said the nation cannot afford to relax in its fight against malaria as doing so would mean a resurgence of the disease.

He said some of the critical measures that the National Malaria Control Unit continues to take are the surveillance of malaria-causing mosquitoes and control activities in malaria prone areas.

Malaria is caused by a type of mosquito known as Anopheles. In the early 2000s Zimbabwe used to record up to 2 million cases of malaria per year with about 5,000 deaths.

In recent times the number of malaria cases has fallen to below half a million per year with about 350 deaths.

Part of the agenda of the meeting was to come up with a list of priorities that will be part of a funding proposal to the Geneva-based Global Fund, which provides funding to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Dr. Mberikwazvo said the priorities that were agreed upon at the meeting were based on the realisation that there is need to maintain the fight against malaria to avoid a resurgence of the disease and also to rid the country of the disease in the near future.

Although he revealed that there was an increase of the incidence of malaria between 2012 and 2013, Dr. Mberikunashe said the National Malaria Control Unit has set itself a target to reduce malaria deaths from the current 22 per a thousand people per year, to one per thousand by 2017.

Despite acknowledging that financial resources are a limitation, Dr. Mberikunashe also revealed that Zimbabwe has vibrant collaboration with neighbouring countries in its malaria control programme.

Representatives of United Nations agencies and international donors like USAID also attended the planning meeting.