Forging Cross-Border Initiatives for Malaria Elimination along the Zambezi Valley
With US $ 882,000 support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Zimbabwe and Zambia agreed to forge a common front in the fight against malaria along their shared border that straddles the Zambezi valley.
This amount excludes support to case management and vector control activities such as indoor residual spraying as well as the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets for 2013.
The two countries plan to integrate, synchronize and harmonize malaria prevention and control interventions leading to scaling up and universal control interventions. Hopefully, this should culminate in malaria pre-elimination in seven targeted cross-border districts from the two countries.
The Zimbabwe-Zambia Cross-Border Malaria Initiative (CBMI) was unveiled on 25 April 2013, at Zambian border city of Livingstone, to coincide with global commemorations to mark the World Malaria Day. The initiative will complement existing national malaria control programmes in both countries.
“There is need to strengthen cross border collaboration activities since mosquitoes that spread malaria know no boundaries. Malaria elimination can only be realized if we work closely with our neighbouring countries at all levels,” stressed Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, Zimbabwe’s deputy minister for health and child welfare.
The minister highlighted that in the high burdened districts in Zimbabwe, malaria accounts for between 30 to 50 percent of outpatient attendances during the peak transmission period.
“Malaria poses significant burden on the health system and the economy in general as it hits hardest during the rainy season,” he said.
The regional initiative if successful “can lead the way for other countries in the continent. Our aim is to save as many lives as we can, with the current grants,” observed Linden Morrison, who heads the High Impact in Africa department at the Global Fund overseeing grants to these two countries.
Noting that in the last decade, financing for malaria control has increased steeply from less than US $ 100 million in 2000 to an estimated US $ 1.84 billion in 2012, Mr. Morrison described this development as important because it allowed endemic countries to significantly scale up prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, ownership of mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 3 per cent of homes in 2000 to 53 percent in 2010. In addition, more than 1.1 million deaths have been averted.
However, “In spite of the impressive reductions in malaria deaths and cases worldwide, such progress remains fragile,” Morrison explained, underlining the need for more investments and partnerships in fighting the disease.
“This initiative will accelerate reduction of malaria transmission among border communities through implementation of coordinated cost-effective malaria control activities,” said Dr. Joseph Kasonde, Zambia’s Minister of Health. “It will also initiate new ones, such as the upcoming Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi initiative.”
The Global Fund is currently supporting three malaria grants in Zambia and Zimbabwe, with two grants worth US$22 million for Zambia, and a US$35 million grant for Zimbabwe. Funds are channeled to the Ministries of Health, National Malaria Control Programs, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). One of the Zambia grants is administered by the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ).