South Africa: Eliminating Malaria Remains Top Priority

Controlling and eliminating malaria remains critical for the health of southern Africa and cross-border partnership is key to achieving this goal.

This was highlighted at the 7th Malaria Research Conference hosted by the South African Medical Research Council Malaria Research Group (MRG) and the Department of Health.

This year’s gathering, currently underway, focuses mainly on the progress that has been made towards achieving the department’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2025, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), some countries, including South Africa, have now embarked on a malaria elimination agenda since transmission has drastically reduced, especially in the southern African region. Of the 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, eight are targeting elimination by 2030.

In addition, cross-border malaria, one of the conference’s thematic areas, poses a serious threat to the country’s elimination efforts.

According to the SAMRC, this is the reason cross-border collaboration is vital to contribute to a greater body of knowledge and research.

The parastatal medical research organisation also seeks to improve the health status and quality of life of people living in malaria-endemic areas by facilitating high-quality scientific research and innovative practices that inform the development of policy, health services, health promotion and capacity development.

The SAMRC Office of Malaria Research Director, Professor Rajendra Maharaj, said: “Researchers and control staff need to work together to achieve elimination since translational research is the key to overcoming challenges amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

In partnership with the department, the MRG has since developed a prioritised research agenda to foster networking and collaboration among different role players to synergise efforts in malaria research towards a common goal.

Meanwhile, Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, emphasised South Africa’s goal to eliminate the life-threatening disease by 2025.

He believes that innovative technologies and relevant research are required to guide implementation policies.

Phaahla said neighbouring countries like eSwatini and Mozambique are working towards malaria elimination. However, he stated that success can only be attained through joint concerted efforts from all partners and governments.

“Malaria is not country-specific, the mosquito knows no borders, nor does it respect any specific air space. Therefore, regional, and cross-border collaborations and partnerships are vital to elimination,” said the Minister.

Phaahla believes that all these tools and technologies bear fruit if communities in the endemic provinces and regions do not see the need for them, adding that more awareness is needed in communities.

“Advocacy and awareness campaigns within communities will help people understand the continued need for malaria control activities and interventions.”