Southern African health officials develop cross-border initiative for malaria elimination

Health ministers from eight countries in the Southern African Development Community this week held a Malaria Elimination Ministerial Meeting in the Namibian capital of Windhoek to develop a cross-border approach for eliminating malaria in the region, New Era reports.

The project will involve four "front-line" countries -- Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland -- and four "second-line" countries -- Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- that are located on the northern border of the front-line countries. Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula said the project, also called "Elimination 8," aims to eliminate malaria first from the front-line countries, which would then contribute to malaria elimination in the second-line countries. He added that the success of the project will depend on the extent of partnership among the countries involved.

According to New Era, the World Health Organization identified the four front-line countries because they have low malaria transmission rates and other favorable climatic and epidemiological conditions. The project will operate under the belief that intensifying malaria control in low-burden countries will result in malaria elimination up to the northern border of the front-line countries, which will then propel the neighboring second-line countries to advance malaria elimination initiatives. Richard Kamwi, Namibia's minister of health and social services, said reducing malaria transmission in the front-line countries would provide a foundation for malaria elimination in the region. He added that neighboring countries with high malaria burdens are critical in elimination strategies because malaria vectors can travel between national borders. "Malaria is a challenge that knows no borders, and therefore must be tackled with similar strategies that equally know no borders," Kamwi said. He added, "When we consider the movement of our people across borders and the import and export of cases, we appreciate the imperative of cross-border collaboration and of a regional approach to elimination."

According to Angula, eliminating malaria in southern Africa will contribute to child development, improve productivity and growth, and increase the use of resources for development in the region. In addition, malaria elimination could lead to an increase in foreign investment and tourism, he said. Despite the economic downturn, Angula encouraged the participating countries to maintain their malaria intervention programs. "Let us seriously consider the positive financial and economic implications of malaria elimination for our region," he said, adding, "It is an investment with very high returns." According to New Era, previous cross-border initiatives, such as the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative between South Africa and Swaziland, have helped reduce malaria prevalence in targeted areas. The Southern Africa region decided to undertake its cross-border initiative following the 2007 launch of the African Union's Africa Malaria Elimination Campaign. According to New Era, officials from SADC, WHO, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the World Bank, UNICEF and other international agencies attended the ministerial meeting in Windhoek (Tjaronda, New Era, 3/4).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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