Eliminating malaria needs change in mindset, change in game plan, and renewed energy. There is no time better than now to rid Africa of malaria.
Source: National Department of Health
Malaria continues to be a serious global health issue. Malaria affects over 109 countries across the globe. It is the fifth highest cause of death from transmittable diseases throughout the world. In 2010, malaria caused 665,000 deaths. Of these, 91% were on the continent of Africa.
Migrant workers travelling to South Africa often need to cross in malaria endemic areas such as those marked on the below map. Some cannot afford antimalarial drugs or have poor knowledge of malaria prevention. Population movement through endemic regions can reduce the control of malaria without the right preventive measures in place.
Migrant populations are most likely to come into contact with this disease along the borders of South Africa. As a result, we can find cross-border malaria in South Africa’s provinces. Hot spots include Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal.
10% of the resident population is at risk of contracting malaria. This is about 4.9 million South Africans. The behaviour of migrants dictates the increase of malaria cases in South Africa.
Malaria transmission in South Africa is seasonal. Risk of malaria infection rises in October. We see a rise of malaria positive cases in January and February, dissipating towards May.
Malaria prevalence increases can be correlated with the movement of migrants into the country. Border crossing into South Africa sees an average of 2,087,915 travellers every month. These include both short-term migrants and long-term migrants.
67% are foreigners. 27% cross our borders by air, and 70% by road. Of these, 12 of the 15 SADC states are endemic countries (Southern African Development Community countries).
In 2011, between January and December, they imported 6,324 malaria cases into South Africa. This accounted for 64% of all cases of malaria for the year. 85% of this infectious disease came from Mozambique.
The prevention of reintroduction into South Africa is vital. Cross-border collaboration is essential, since the prevalence of malaria increases seasonally when more migrants entering our borders. To reduce the prevalence of malaria infection in our country and to avoid outbreaks of malaria, this issue needs to be addressed.
Migrant workers crossing the border into South Africa are increasing. Border crossing from various African countries take place for a wide range of reasons. Seasonal migrants are less common than those seeking work or safety within our borders.
Mobile populations face various health care services obstacles like getting access to health care. One of these obstacles includes getting access to malaria prevention. It also includes access to treatment services for malaria infection.
Malaria is a significant risk factor, yet many migrant workers have very little knowledge of malaria prevention. It will take a strategic plan and firm action to improve the educational status of migrant workers and to address the lack of access to information.
Malaria preventatives such as antimalarial drugs, skin patches, DEET sprays, and even essential oils can be costly to seasonal farm workers and impoverished migrants. They may not have access to private health facilities where they can learn about preventative measures and where to access them.
There are about 350 to 500 million clinical malaria cases every year. There are over 600,000 malaria deaths in Africa every year. Most of these are children under 5 years of age.
60% of these are clinical cases. About 80% of malaria deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria makes up a major barrier to development in the region. This includes both socio-economic and economic growth.
The South African government is hard at work to end this infectious disease. The elimination of malaria involves many strategies and processes. They need a robust plan involving medical care and government intervention.
The first phase of elimination began with a programme review. It included the development of an elimination strategy with implementing the plan. The plan requires monitoring.
Malaria is preventable and curable. Early diagnosis is essential. Otherwise, malaria could prove fatal.
The Government created the National Malaria Elimination Strategy in 2011. The idea is to eliminate malaria entirely. Strategies include activities reaching vulnerable populations and seasonal migrants.
All migrants crossing the borders into South Africa should have access to public health services. These include the testing of malaria. Migrants should have access to treatment.
Some challenges include language barriers. Language is often an immense problem amongst migrant workers.
Migrants often seek medical attention when falciparum malaria is in the later stages. Some may be asymptomatic malaria carriers and not seek any medical help at all. A vector of malaria does not always have symptoms.
Challenges include a general lack of trust towards health care professionals. Other challenges are access to health centers or health workers. Health care facilities are often not close enough to entry points into South Africa.
Finally, some migrant workers enter our borders illegally, unable to receive a malaria diagnosis without access to medical facilities. This is how the risk of malaria infection increases in our country.
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It is important to visit the relevant health care professionals before embarking on trips to Africa or other malaria hot spots. When visiting malaria regions, try booking your stay during the low malaria months.
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