Malaria’s neverdying sting


Malaria is just as well the normal abnormal of our time. The fight against it has taken decades of strategising and restrategising, of budget crunching and resource mobilisation, of actions and review of actions and review of reviewed actions.

There are piles and piles of files of research papers, reports and plans on the disease.

For instance, between 2006 and 2011 alone, Malawi has come up with not less than 10 policies and guidelines on malaria control.


These tools have included the five-year Malaria Strategic Plan, which expired in December last year and pegged the anti-malaria campaign budget at $330 million (about K247 billion at current exchange rates).

Over the years, the Big Pharma has poured billions of dollars into research on malaria drugs and manufacturing of mosquito nets.

Government and its partners have stepped up efforts in malaria control, according to Minister of Health, Peter Kumpalume.


This, he said, is evidenced by increased funding and use of proven effective malaria control interventions such as diagnosis and treatment of malaria patients and promotion of prevention measures.

“We also have other cross cutting strategic interventions such as behavioral change and communication including advocacy,” he told The Sunday Times in a questionnaire.

Yet, today, malaria ranks as one of the country’s major public health concerns, alongside HIV and Aids and tuberculosis, experts say.

Speak to students at Mtendere Secondary School in Dedza and they have a fresh, book-length story that’s dotted with a million mosquito stings and smudged with the disease it transmits.

In the past two months, the institution has suffered a bout of malaria which has sent some teachers to sickbeds leading to suspension of classes, according to a Malawi News Agency (Mana) report published last week.

The situation also led to the school sending 30 students home for them to access proper treatment.

The head teacher for the school said students were finding it hard to concentrate on studies because the mosquitoes were found “everywhere at the campus” – the school’s own version of the frogs in the biblical Egyptian plague.

At the time of the report last week, the nearby Mtendere Mission Hospital had registered over 200 malaria cases since January this year.

The recent national trends on malaria could be flattering if compared with the state of affairs six years ago.

The 2014 Health Management Information System (HMIS) report shows that malaria accounts for about 24 percent of all out-patient cases.

It also accounts for 27 percent of deaths occurring at the country’s health facilities.

This recent situation is clearly an improvement on one presented in the HMIS report of 2010.

According to the report, malaria then accounted for about 34 percent of all outpatient visits.

The disease was estimated to be responsible for about 40 percent of all hospitalisations of children under five years old. It was also responsible for 40 percent of all hospital deaths.

But Kumpalume, a health scientist himself, isn’t falling for this improvement.

“Looking at these [recent] figures, I agree that malaria is still a huge problem for our country,” he said.

In 2000, nations around the world set out to halve malaria by 2010, and then combat it entirely by 2015. For Malawi, the malaria terror rages on with the same arrogance of old.

Lady Anopheles is not taking any compromises, so it seems. Perhaps, that is why the 2011-2015 Malaria Strategic Plan described malaria as “a longstanding and debilitating companion in Malawi.”

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