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Zimbabwe ramps up efforts to eliminate malaria

The Ministry of Health, and Child Care (MoHCC) with support from World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners conducted a Malaria Quarterly Review and Planning meeting and the National Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) Review and Planning meeting. The exercise was conducted from 4-16 September 2023.

The malaria quarterly review meeting was an opportunity to assess the progress made in malaria control efforts over the third quarter of 2023, identify any challenges or gaps in the implementation of control and elimination strategies, and take corrective measures. The IRS meeting evaluated the 2022/23 IRS campaign to determine the effectiveness and impact of IRS interventions, measure the reduction in malaria transmission rates and identify any potential areas for improvement. This is critical as the country is readying for the upcoming 2023/24 IRS season.

The two meetings were followed by refresher trainings for IRS to enhance the capacity of field supervisors and spray operators as the country readies for the malaria season, the period between November and June poses the highest malaria risk. The training took place in Murehwa, Mashonaland East Province, with support from various partners, including the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, Isdell: Flower Cross Border Malaria Initiative, the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the Zimbabwe Assistance Programme in Malaria (ZAPIM II), the Zimbabwe Entomological Support Program in Malaria (ZENTO), and WHO.

The Chief Director of Public Health in MOHCC, Dr Munyaradzi Dobbie, officially opened the meetings and acknowledged the support from partners in tackling malaria in the country. “We truly cherish the support from all our partners who have helped us achieve immense gains in our response to malaria and we hope the training will enhance expertise in carrying out the forthcoming IRS programme and we are looking forward to see a decrease in cases going forward,” he said.

The review meeting provided valuable insights into the coverage and compliance levels of IRS interventions, identified resource needs, and ensured that this essential intervention reaches vulnerable communities and contributes significantly to the global efforts of eradicating malaria. Topics covered during the training included vector control policy, strategy and implementation guidelines; use, maintenance, and troubleshooting of vector control equipment; safe storage; transportation and use of insecticides; first aid measures in case of accidental exposure to insecticides; spraying techniques; donning and doffing of personal protective clothing/equipment (PPE); data management; effective supervision and evaluation of spraying performance and effectiveness, and community mobilisation.

“We continue to applaud the work being done by the Government of Zimbabwe in strengthening malaria intervention, and review meetings such as these ones. The above-mentioned meeting is key in taking stock of progress and coming up with innovative improvements that can bring better results,” said Professor Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO Representative to Zimbabwe.

Malaria remains a serious public health problem, with more than 5 million people at risk of contracting malaria annually in Zimbabwe. It accounts for about 40% of outpatient attendances in the moderate to high transmission districts, especially during the peak transmission period. By August 2023, the country had recorded 144 508 positive malaria cases with Provinces like Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Masvingo contributing 97% of the cases.

While the country is doing well and has made progress towards making malaria services accessible to many, Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is also faced with growing insecticide resistance, and this calls for increased investments towards finding alternative interventions for malaria control and elimination.

The malaria programme in Zimbabwe continues to adopt and adapt WHO malaria guidelines for case management, surveillance, vector control, and prevention of the re-establishment of malaria in areas where it was eliminated, to name just a few. In 2022, WHO, with financial support from Roll Back Malaria (RBM), technically supported the country in updating the Malaria Strategic Plan 2021-26 and the Social Behaviour Change Strategy 2021-26. While several interventions have been employed to reduce transmission such as IRS, the country also implemented the AFRO II Project to deal with the increasing threat of insecticide resistance. The project was financial supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNEP and WHO Regional Office for Africa. This was part of the WHO’s continuous efforts to support Zimbabwe in its fight against malaria, and it is anticipated that there will be an AFRO III Project, still aimed at evaluating alternative malaria interventions.

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