Cape Town - Today marks World Malaria Day, which follows the aftermath of what UN Secretary-General called “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa.”
Tropical Cyclone Idai, which struck Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe last month- has left spikes in the number of malaria cases in its wake, leading to an increased risk of the life-threatening disease spreading in areas with low-transmission rates, such as South Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, malaria is caused by parasites that are typically transmitted through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Due to the long lifespans and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species, 90% of the world’s malaria cases take place in Africa.
“The recent devastation across the country in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Idai has resulted in a surge in malaria and cholera cases. The infrastructural damage displaced over 1 million children who, along with pregnant women, are at high risk of contracting the disease because of their lower immunity. The need for increased malaria awareness and intervention in the wake of this and future natural disasters is critical,” said Sherwin Charles, chief executive and co-founder of Goodbye Malaria.
Goodbye Malaria has been a driving force in combating malaria in the country and has protected almost 1.1 million lives in the country since 2009.
“Awareness and education remain key in combating the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The bulk of our work is conducted in Mozambique, which is a high-transmission country where large numbers of people live in remote rural areas without access to quick malaria diagnosis and treatment,” said Charles.
Mozambique currently accounts for 5% of the world’s malaria cases. The country’s Health Ministry recently revealed that the number of cases reported for the first three months of 2019 has more than doubled, compared to the same period last year.
In addition to partnering with health and government organisations, celebrities, individuals, and sports teams, Goodbye Malaria has been teaming up with not-for-profit enterprise Relate Trust-to enhance its fundraising and advocacy efforts- for the past ten years.
Relate Trust primarily sells handmade beaded bracelets globally, raising money for charities worldwide as well as creating jobs for low-income community members. Many of these bracelets are beaded by senior citizens living in Western Cape townships.
Funds from these efforts contribute directly to Goodbye Malaria’s Indoor Residual Spray Programme and mobile diagnostic and treatment clinics for malaria sufferers, initiatives that have helped protect more than 1 089 111 lives.
Charles remains optimistic about the NGO’s target of eliminating malaria in Mozambique by 2030 but warns that constant vigilance and investment by authorities is needed.
“We need to remain focused on high-transmission countries such as Mozambique in order to curb the scourge of Malaria once and for all, but we also need to pay close attention to low-transmission countries like South Africa, where there is evidence of a sharp increase in malaria prevalence,” Charles said.
More information on how to get involved and join the battle against malaria is available on www.goodbyemalaria.com and www.relate.org.za