Malaria cases still surging in northern regions

Niël Terblanché

Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) of Namibia has reported a significant uptick in malaria cases, with 350 individuals hospitalized amidst a surge of locally transmitted infections in the country’s northern regions.

The rise in cases also includes those imported from neighbouring countries, which increases the widespread challenge in combating the disease.

The Executive Director of MOHSS, Ben Nangombe, has disclosed that the surveillance systems have detected an increase in reported cases from regions traditionally associated with malaria.

According to Nangombe, it is alarming that new infections are emerging from areas that typically do not report malaria which suggests an expansion of the disease into non-endemic regions.

“To date, 3,147 new cases have been reported, with the Zambezi region alone accounting for 1,201 cases,” Nangombe said while expressing concern about He said the current outbreak has resulted in 12 deaths, including a rare case from the Omaheke region, which is not known for malaria outbreaks.

Nangombe attributed late hospital visits by patients which led to complications or severe cases of malaria, and, in some instances, fatalities.

In response to the crisis, the MOHSS has initiated several interventions, including routine surveillance, public education campaigns, and a rapid assessment to gauge the outbreak’s magnitude.

A response plan has been put into place, with the procurement of rapid testing kits and medicines to tackle the outbreak head-on.

“More rapid testing kits will be needed to ensure comprehensive testing and confirmation of suspected malaria cases,” Nangombe emphasized, underlining the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

To combat the spread of malaria, the ministry is also focusing on vector control through Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) and has distributed over 100,000 mosquito nets to communities.

However, challenges persist, notably in securing the necessary insecticides for IRS, limited suppliers, and logistical hurdles posed by the rainy season, which have slowed down the spraying campaign.

Nangombe has called on the public to be vigilant and seek medical care at the first sign of malaria-like symptoms, which include headache, body aches, fever, and nausea.

He stressed that malaria is both preventable and curable, urging the community to adopt precautionary measures such as using mosquito-treated nets and cooperating with spraying teams.

The Ministry of Health’s commitment to informing and protecting the public remains steadfast, with Nangombe saying, “One life lost to malaria is one too many. We should all join hands to prevent further loss of lives to this disease.”

He added that the outbreak revealed the need for collective action and awareness to curb the spread of malaria in Namibia.

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