The number of malaria cases in South Africa have decreased by 88% from 64 622 cases in 2000 to 8 126 in 2020, and deaths are also down 92%.
South Africa appears to be winning the war on malaria and is on track to eliminate the transmission of the disease by 2023, says a senior government health official.
Sunday marks World Malaria Day, which celebrates the global progress in stopping the spread of malaria, with the theme “Zero Malaria – Drawing the Line Against Malaria”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week launched an initiative to stop the transmission of malaria across 25 countries, including South Africa and North Korea, by 2025.
According to the director of malaria and other vector-borne diseases at the national department of health, Patrick Moonasar, the number of malaria cases in South Africa had decreased by 88% from 64 622 cases in 2000 to 8 126 in 2020.
Moonasar said malaria deaths had also decreased by 92%, from 459 in 2000 to 38 in 2020.
Local health authorities aim to eliminate the disease by 2023, sticking to a strategic plan which was launched in 2019.
“The department of health malaria programme will be fully implementing its operational plans as per usual, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring that all Covid-19 protocols will be in place during implementation,” Moonasar said.
“The South African national department of health in collaboration with Goodbye Malaria have agreed to establish the End Malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTD) fund.
“This public-private-community partnership mobilised financial and in-kind resources, as well advocate and action to end malaria and NTDs in South Africa.”
In its situation report on malaria, the WHO said: “Of the 87 countries with malaria, 46 reported fewer than 10 000 cases in 2019, compared to 26 in 2000.
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“By the end of 2020, 24 countries had reported interrupting malaria transmission for three years or more. Of these, 11 were certified malaria-free by WHO.”
Its regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in 2019 the WHO African region had accounted for 94% of both the 229 million malaria cases and 409 000 malaria deaths reported globally, despite the progress made in malaria response in the region.
“Cabo Verde has maintained zero malaria status since 2018; Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019; and Botswana, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Namibia and South Africa achieved the 2020 milestones of reducing malaria incidence and deaths by 40% compared to 2015,” Moeti said.
In a 2020 world malaria report the WHO said more than 90% of malaria deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, including more than 265 000 children under the age of five.
“The consequences of disrupting malaria prevention services in sub-Saharan Africa due to the pandemic and societal measures aimed at curtailing the spread of Covid-19 transmission will likely result in a rise in malaria deaths,” said the report.
Moeti said two of three pregnant women did not receive adequate preventive treatment.
“Without this protection, there were 11.6 million malaria cases among pregnant women and 822 000 infants with low birth weight reported across 33 countries,” she said.
From 2000 to 2019, malaria incidence had declined by 29% and deaths by 60%. More than 1.2 billion cases and 7.1 million deaths were prevented in the region.
“Every year we let malaria spread, health and development suffers. Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1.3% in Africa’s economic growth,” Moeti added.
Urgent action was therefore needed to stop the scourge of this disease and to get on track towards the global malaria goals of a 90% reduction in cases and deaths by 2030.
“We are excited by the emerging results from the pilot implementation of RTS,S malaria vaccine,” she added.
“In 18 months, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi were able to deliver more than 1.7 million doses, reaching about the same levels of population coverage as other vaccines. This is a promising additional tool in malaria prevention.”