UNDP Supports Cross Border Initiative to Roll Back Malaria along the Zambezi River

25 Apr 2013

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Livingstone - Zambia commemorated World Malaria Day on May 25th with the launch of the Zambia Zimbabwe cross border malaria initiative which seeks to harmonise policies and jointly coordinate malaria control interventions between the two countries. The initiativewas launched under the theme“Investing in the Future to Defeat Malaria.” Zambia and Zimbabwe share the Zambezi River, a long water body which forms the border between the two countries.

The two districts on either side of the border share the same ecological patterns that support similar vector populations so malaria transmission follows similar patterns on both sides of the border. With this initiative, the two countries will be required to mobilise resources and harmonise the fight against the disease. Distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying will be undertaken simultaneously in both countries to reduce the reservoir of infection. As communities living across the borders share a mutual language and culture, sensitisation and community mobilisation will also be undertaken concurrently to ensure a harmonised response to the interventions in both countries. This regional initiative that aims to eliminate malaria in the Zambezi valley is being supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) grants which UNDP manages for an interim period on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at the launch, GFATM head of High Impact II to Africa Linden Morrison, saidZambia and Zimbabwe had been long time partners of the Global Fund. Since 2002, the two countries have had almost USD$ 400m approved for malaria. “We remain committed to providing additional resources,” he said. Mr. Morrison said the Global Fund was pleased to support the cross border initiative within the framework of the SADC malaria elimination campaign? for which the two countries would use existing grants to support malaria interventions. He said with the lessons learnt from this joint initiative, the Global Fund would exploreexpanding the approach of using current country funding to support cross border interventions. “Together we can show that our efforts are having an impact – ensuring that donors continue to believe in our Global Fund to continue supporting Zambia and Zimbabwe in the fight against malaria.” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director, Viola Morgan,applauded the Zambian government for the tremendous achievements made in the malaria control programme.For instance,“Over 4.7m cases of malaria were treated at health facilities and 6.1million RDTs were distributed to health facilities in 2012.” Ms. Morgan said it was also encouraging to note that the percentage of pregnant women sleeping under treated insecticide mosquito nets increased from 45 percent in 2010 to about 60 percent in 2012 and 68 percent of household have at least one mosquito net. “This is a move in the right direction to reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality rate,” she said, adding that her agency, indeed the UN family, recognizes the commitment by the Government of the Republic of Zambia, through the Ministry of Health, to improving the delivery of health services, including the fight against malaria, Ms. Morgan said since 2010 when UNDP took up temporary Principal Recipient-ship, the agency has been a key partner in the National Malaria Control Programme through programmatic and financial support to achieve the national targets and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She thanked the Global Fund for their support to the initiative and health system in general. Zambia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Kasonde and Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr. Douglas Mombeshora who officially launched the cross-border initiative said in separate statements that with collaboration, the two countries stood a better chance of achieving the MDGS of eliminating malaria by 2015.

The two ministers were highly encouraged about the project. “Malaria knows no borders. It is imperative that we synchronize our efforts and consolidate our policies to implement malaria control activities.” Dr. Kasonde said. For his part, Dr. Mombershora said “the cross border Initiative is exciting for Zimbabwe as it will accelerate the transmission from malaria control to malaria elimination along the Zambezi River.” Dr. Kasonde said the initiative was of special significance because though Zambia had entered into other collaborative agreements on malaria control with other countries in the SADC region, this was the first one to be formalised. “This launch is historic and important to Zambia because it will pave the way, encourage and activate other initiatives that Zambia is associated with in the SADC region,” Dr. Kasonde said. The minister said malaria continued to be a public health disease despite the investment and successes in implementing effective malaria control interventions. Malaria accounted for the largest number of out-patient’s visits and hospital admissions, especially among children under five years of age. The Zambian Minister of Health said his government has allocated KR120million in this year’s budget (2013) in order to change the malaria map, imploring stakeholders and partners to contribute to the national resource mobilisation efforts in order to eliminate malaria by 2015. Dr.Mombeshora,said there was no doubt that joint coordination of malaria control interventions, harmonisation of policies and tools, synchronisation of operations and joint collaboration would accelerate reduction of malaria transmission among the border communities and contribute significantly towards malaria elimination. Despite the excitementoccasioned by the joint initiative, Dr.Mombeshora emphasized that the project would only succeed if it was adopted and supported by all stakeholders, including the communities. World Health Organization (WHO) Representative, Dr.Olusegun Babaniyi who applauded the cross-border initiative, saying it was a step in the right direction; that WHO remains committed to supporting the government in implementing and scaling up key malaria interventions for impact. He said stronger partnerships, increased funding by Member States, bilateral and multilateral organizations, as well as improved access to effective prevention and treatment were needed to reduce the burden of malaria. “We must also build local capacity to control malaria, promote new initiatives and solutions and assess their impact by monitoring malaria cases and promote research on new insecticides, medicines, parasite resistance to recommended medicines and malaria vaccines,” he said. Dr. Babaniyi said Zambia was among the African countries that have made tremendous progress in the fight against malaria, but warned that these gains were fragile and malaria could resurge if there was complacency. While malaria continues to be a public health disease, the percentage of malaria cases in Zambia is steadily reducing mainly because of prevention methods such as mass distribution of long lasting mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying as well as prompt treatment of cases which also double as prevention for further spread. However, the success has been a modest reduction from 16.1 to 14.3 percent. With the cross border initiative, it is envisaged that there will be synchronized interventions in communities in the border areas, to reduce the impact of malaria.