Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Although the disease is preventable and curable, statistics from 2014 indicate malaria caused an estimated 96 deaths countrywide and 9 245 reported infections.
Malaria is endemic in just three provinces in the country, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. A three-day malaria research meeting in Durban addressed possible solutions to aid the malaria elimination programme in South Africa, means of achieving zero local malaria cases and the effectiveness of malaria interventions.
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) hosted the conference. The council said South Africa had met the World Health Organisation’s criteria for targeting elimination, but acknowledged gaps needed to be filled.
Three malaria research centres of excellence have been established to assist the national department of health in reaching its goal of malaria elimination by 2018. An investment of R3 million will fund these centres in the current financial year.
The director of the SAMRC office of malaria research, Professor Rajendra Maharaj, said among the findings at the conference was the need for communities to play a larger role in deciding how best to eliminate the disease.
Measures to curb imported malaria would require cross-border interventions in countries adjacent to South Africa, said Maharaj.