Malaria hits Zimbabwe hard due to Covid-19

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By Tariro Sajeni

ZIMBABWE has recorded a huge increase in malaria deaths and cases this year and the situation has been compounded by similarities of the disease’s symptoms to those of Covid-19, the Daily News can report.
From January 1 to November 31, at least 392 people have succumbed to malaria while the country has recorded 389 101 cases.

This represents a 47 percent jump in cases from the 245 660 that were reported during the same period last year. Speaking during an event to commemorate the Sadc Malaria Day in Harare yesterday, Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said travel restrictions brought about by Covid-19 had affected the fight against malaria.

Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers and community based health workers resulted in them failing to access patients.

“Promotion of measures meant to prevent further spread of Covid-19, including social distancing and restricting movement of people though noble, contributed to delays in accessing malaria testing and treatment services, especially in remote areas, which also resulted in the increase of malaria cases and deaths this year,” Mangwiro said.

“Covid-19 has similar initial symptoms to malaria, including fever, headache, generalised body pains and weakness,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Programme director, Kunashe Mberi, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made numerous recommendations which they were following to combat the disease.

“We spray people’s houses free and provide mosquito nets, every sleeping space must have a mosquito net. We sprayed and are still spraying, however, sometimes we face resistance as people give different excuses for not wanting their houses to be sprayed, but we do not encourage that,” Mberi said.

He said most of the local malaria cases and fatalities had been reported in Manicaland followed by Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East.

“We are ready for the rainy season as we have placed medicines in clinics and hospitals and people are advised to go and get treated free of charge if they suspect they have malaria.

“We want to talk to people throughout the year and have campaigns but we have financial challenges and the ministry is depending on donors for funds so we cannot carry out all the programmes that we might have planned,” Mberi said

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