In Zimbabwe and Zambia, the fight against malaria crosses borders
Through a grant of US $882,000 from the Global Fund, Zimbabwe and Zambia are targeting malaria along their shared border that straddles the Zambezi valley.
The Zimbabwe-Zambia Cross-Border Malaria Initiative has provided for mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying, fumigation and health education.
The Global Fund currently supports three malaria grants in the two countries, including US $35 million earmarked for Zimbabwe and US $22 million for Zambia.
In the village of Chundu in Zimbabwe’s border district of Hurungwe, Mrs. Ellen Kunje has seen some heartening changes. In an area prone to malaria epidemics, Mrs. Kunje’s family and home have remained free from the disease.
Thanks to a new malaria control programme, she was given a long-lasting insecticidal mosquito net, and her home was also sprayed for insects.
“None of my family members has suffered from malaria since this program was started,” she said. “And besides, there are no more cockroaches in my kitchen.”
Mrs. Kunje is one of thousands benefitting from the Zimbabwe-Zambia Cross-Border Malaria Initiative (CBMI), a malaria control programme spearheaded by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and advanced by a UNDP-administered grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The program seeks to keep the killer mosquito at bay through a mix of preventive measures, including the distribution of mosquito nets, fumigation, indoor residual spraying (IRS) and health education.
The initiative was launched in April 2013 in the Zambian border city of Livingstone and will complement existing national malaria control programmes in both countries.
To facilitate the initiative, the Global Fund dedicated US $882,000 for joint cross-border activities. The grant is meant to strengthen collaboration and coordination of malaria-prevention activities. The two countries plan to work together so their malaria prevention and control programmes will be integrated and possibly eventually reproduced on a larger scale.
Programme organizers hope the initiative will culminate in malaria pre-elimination in seven targeted cross-border districts from the two countries.
“There is need to strengthen cross border collaboration activities since mosquitoes that spread malaria know no boundaries. Malaria elimination can only be realized if we work closely with our neighbouring countries at all levels,” stressed Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, Zimbabwe’s deputy minister for health and child welfare at the time of the initiative’s launch.
The former deputy minister highlighted that in districts with high malaria rates in Zimbabwe, malaria accounts for between 30 to 50 percent of patients admitted to hospitals during the peak transmission period.
“Malaria poses significant burden on the health system and the economy in general as it hits hardest during the rainy season,” he said.
The regional initiative, if successful, “can lead the way for other countries in the continent,” said Linden Morrison, head of the High Impact in Africa department at the Global Fund overseeing grants to these two countries.
“Our aim is to save as many lives as we can with the current grants,” Morrison said.
Experts say that the Zambezi valley that straddles the two countries provides ideal conditions for a high natural prevalence of plasmodium falciparum parasite, the cause of the deadliest form of malaria. The transmission season for malaria generally extends from November to May. However, several rivers—including the Zambezi and its tributaries—cut through the region, and their seasonal flooding can result in prolonged malaria seasons, sometimes causing malaria epidemics.
The Global Fund currently supports three malaria grants in the two countries through 2015, including US $35 million earmarked for Zimbabwe and US $22 million for Zambia.