Reduced global funding halts malaria response in Namibia

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Sharon Kavhu

Windhoek - In the past decade, Namibia has made significant progress in the fight against and elimination of malaria as new cases and deaths reduced by 97% and 92% respectively between 2000 and 2012.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), during the same period, malaria cases and deaths reduced by 24% and 51% respectively in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

The development was attributed to the use of advanced equipment such as the insecticide, treated mosquito nets, rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin combination therapies.

WHO Representative in Namibia, Charles Sagoes-Moses, suggests that the decrease of malaria cases and deaths in Namibia as well as the rest of the region was also attributed to the countries’ political commitment. 

He said the commitment was seen when countries signed the Abuja Declaration of 2001 to prioritise health and the creation of the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria which saw an infusion of funds in the fight against malaria.

However, an increase in the incidence of malaria in Namibia has been observed from 2014 to 2018. Sagoes-Moses suggests that the increase is ascribed to the development of resistance in insecticides and lack of funding as a result of reduced funding from global partners in Namibia.

“This increase in the number of cases can be ascribed to the development of resistance in the insecticides used for both indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insecticide treated nets (ITNs), a reduction in donor funding due to the fact that Namibia is classified as an upper middle-income country and lastly the importation of cases across the border,” said Sagoes-Moses.

He said the mosquitos are always one step ahead of the prevention measures and emphasised the need to enhance the response regularly. 

Although the government of Namibia, with the support of various partners, was implementing a number of activities to address and eliminate malaria, there was a need to increase domestic funding and strengthen current strategies. 

Sagoes-Moses said there was a need for the region to have some innovation in malaria control tools and developing field-tested approaches to improve community engagement. 

“Given the recent increase observed in the malaria incidences, there is a need for a sustained response by countries in the efforts to end malaria. To get back on track and achieve progress on the path towards elimination, stepped-up action is needed across all endemic countries, particularly in countries hardest hit by malaria. These actions include strong country ownership with progressively increased domestic funding, tailored responses to country context and strengthened surveillance system,” said Sagoes-Moses.

He said Namibia and rest of the SADC region needed to ensure that there was equity in access to health services by all people at risk of malaria, particularly pregnant women and children. He emphasised the need for the most vulnerable to malaria to have access to the primary health care services they need to prevent, diagnose and treat this deadly disease. 

WHO acknowledged the significant efforts by the SADC Elimination 8 (E8) countries in the fight against malaria. E8 was established in 2009 and comprises Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe which came together to establish a partnership to collaborate on a regional level with one goal of eliminating malaria.

They have made strides in combining efforts against malaria. To date E8 has established 46 malaria border posts with 33 health clinics and 13 surveillance units aimed at improving access to timely diagnosis and treatment.

The organisation has designed and implemented a regional diagnosis programme that supports E8 countries by pooling laboratory infrastructure and technical expertise in quality assurance and quality control.

E8 member states are also implementing cross-border collaborations against malaria through MOUs such as MOSASWA initiative which is between Eswatini Mozambique, and South Africa; the Trans-Kunene Malaria Initiative (TKMI) on the border between Angola and Namibia, and the Zambia-Zimbabwe (ZAM-ZIM) initiative.  Other E8 member states have committed to harmonised monitoring of vector control coverage and entomological surveillance.

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