Cyclone Idai effects increase malaria cases in Manicaland

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By Staff Reporter

Mutare: Cyclone Idai which devastated Chimanimani and Chipinge districts leaving hundreds dead and more missing in March this year, has increased cases of malaria in Manicaland province, a health top official has said.

Chief Director Preventative Services in the Ministry of Health, Gibson Mhlanga said the tropical Cyclone put a strain to national disaster risk reduction strategies.

He added that the hostile weather phenomenon provided a breeding ground for malaria causing mosquitoes in the border province.

“The cyclone took away the major malaria preventative tools that had been set up to protect communities during the pre-season campaign in the fourth quarter of 2018 as it destroyed homes and swept away mosquito nets which families might have had and created more breeding ground for vector mosquitos.

“The disaster presented a serious test for our national response systems to emergencies.

“The Ministry Health and Child Care malaria programme was able to respond…but access was not easy,” said Mhlanga on the sidelines of the National Malaria Annual Conference held in the eastern border city recently.

The annual conference, which was attended by officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, stakeholders and partners, was meant to strategise towards achieving priorities of the national malaria control programme.

National Malaria Programme coordinator, Joseph Mberikunashe said the climate change induced cyclone has caused a 10 percent upsurge in malaria incidents despite routine government control measures.

“The districts (affected by Cyclone Idai) in this province, Chimanimani and Chipinge, we have set up some temporary shelters and clinics outside the existing clinics that have been around but because people have been displaced from their homes, they are more exposed to mosquito bites.

“So we have been seeing cases increasing, they have increased by 10% so far since the Cyclone Idai happened and Manicaland is our highest malaria burdened province in the country.

“So when you compare the number of cases from last, they have increased by 10 percent despite the fact that we have sprayed and taken measures that target the homes,” he said.

Dr Mberikunashe said Zimbabwe has made significant progress in fighting malaria with at least 28 districts out of 62 already in the pre-elimination phase.

He said while half of the population lives in malaria risk areas, there have been great strides in fighting the scourge nationally.

“The country has been making significant progress in terms of elimination of malaria in the country. We have realised an 86% percent reduction in terms of disease burden in 2018 compared to a baseline of the year 2000.

“In terms of deaths we have also seen a decline of 82% over the same period so that’s significant change in the landscape for malaria in the country.

“Out of the 62 districts, we now have 28 which are already doing pre-elimination activities which mean malaria has been reduced to very few cases per district or less than 4 cases out of every 1000, and we can follow up on every case because they are manageable,” said Mberikunashe.