Malaria infections are falling in Limpopo, thanks in part to a controversial pesticide and poor rainfall this season.

The number of malaria cases, said the provinces’ Health Department, has fallen sharply, and as of October there have been 253 cases, which is half the number of last year.

Mostly malaria is reported in the eastern parts of Vhembe and Mopani, which border the Kruger National Park to the west.

Part of the strategy to eradicate malaria has been a programme to spray the walls of 300 000 houses with dichlorodiphenyltrichorothane (DDT).

This pesticide remains in use in the Southern Africa Development Community after it was banned in other countries, but departmental spokeswoman Sinenhlanhla Gumede said it has enabled them to make significant strides in battling a major public health problem.

She said that all primary health-care clinics are fully equipped to handle malaria patients at a community level and that more severe cases are sent to hospitals.

“The malaria spray teams are also actively busy conducting spraying in all the affected areas, with more than 300 000 houses sprayed over the past three months.”

Gumede said awareness campaigns were continuing in affected communities.

However, the Malaria Institute said the department could not claim credit for the decline in the number of cases, citing the effects of lower rainfall.

Qabanisa Mabunda, the Malaria Institute provincial manager, explained that the disease is seasonal, and that its spread is dependent on rainfall patterns and the manner in which mosquitoes breed.

He said that if there was rain before the end of the month, the number of malaria cases in Limpopo could rise.

Stagnant water, lying in ditches after heavy rains, is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry malaria.

However, Gumede said people need not fear catching the disease because it is curable.