Health Ministry kicks-off the Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) campaign to combat Malaria

Tujoromajo Kasuto

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) is officially rolling out the indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaign in 21 targeted malaria endemic districts.

Malaria is a life threatening disease caused by parasites and transmitted to a person through a bite from an infected female anopheles mosquito. According to MoHSS Executive Director (ED), Ben Nangombe, last year Namibia recorded over 13,600 confirmed malaria cases with over 40 malaria deaths, with the Kavango East, Kavango West, Ohangwena and Zambezi regions collectively accounting for over 85 percent of these cases and deaths.

Nangombe says the ministry is implementing three major vector control interventions to combat malaria transmission by conducting IRS; larviciding (treating mosquito breeding sites) and distributing Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) to targeted populations. IRS involves spraying insecticides on the inside walls of homes to kill malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, thus providing protection for community members residing in sprayed areas.

In Namibia, IRS is implemented using the Dichloro-Diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and SumiShield insecticides, which have proven to be effective against mosquito. IRS is provided freely by the MoHSS and is certified as safe for humans by the World Health Organization (WHO). IRS insecticides remain effective for months, killing over 90% of mosquitoes that come to rest on sprayed surfaces.

The IRS campaign is conducted yearly between September and December, just prior to the start of the rainy season and the malaria peak season. IRS focuses on areas where the inhabitants at risk live and sleep in sprayable structures provided there is evidence that mosquitos feed and tend to rest indoors.

This year, the targeted IRS activities will be conducted in nine regions namely; Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango East, Kavango West, Otjozondjupa, Omusati, Kunene, Oshana and Zambezi. The IRS Campaign is carried out in close collaboration with local authorities in the targeted malaria-prone regions. The IRS campaign activities also include continuous monitoring to ensure that the sprayed insecticide remains active on the walls to guard against the malaria transmitting mosquitoes throughout the season.

While Namibia has achieved a remarkable decline in malaria cases in the past decade, Nangombe says many people are still at risk of acquiring malaria, thus there is a need for them to play their part in moving Namibia closer to its goal of malaria elimination by 2023. Therefore, the MoHSS is urging community members to support the IRS campaign by allowing health officials and spray operators to enter their homes for insecticide spraying, as well as to encourage their neighbours to participate and be protected against malaria infections.

The public is also encouraged to use personal protective measures against malaria, which include wearing long-sleeved clothing, using mosquito repellents and sleeping under a long lasting insecticide treated net every time when sleeping indoor as well as outdoor.

Communities are further urged to learn and recognise malaria signs and symptoms, as well as to immediately seek treatment at the nearest health facility. Signs and symptoms include: fever, chills, general body pain, headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, loss of appetite as well as pale/yellow eyes

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