Malaria is a deadly disease, but is the message sinking?

04Jan 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Malaria is a deadly disease, but is the message sinking?

MALARIA and various other vector-borne or communicable diseases are among the easiest to contain – or is it commonly argued, and not completely without reason.

For one thing, they are curable, and ways to treat them were identified and put to the most rigorous of experiments as long ago as one can remember.

Even more encouragingly, medical and other experts are still busy looking into even better and faster ways of kicking the disease out of the world once and for all..

Additionally, even the least effort to improve outdoor and indoor environmental hygiene can work miracles in arresting their spread and therefore minimising the havoc they can wreak on public health.

But decades of national and international strategies and initiatives designed to make most of these diseases history have all but failed to make Tanzanians safe enough for reasonably long periods.

For instance, malaria remains so endemic in the coastal zone and along the shores of major water bodies such as lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa and major rivers including Rufiji and Ruvu that it is often taken for granted.

In parts of the Lake Victoria shoreline, mosquitoes are in such overwhelming abundance that the common belief is that residents of those areas have developed natural immunity to diseases like malaria.

True, relative to the size of the population, few of those people are usually so down with the diseases as to become bed-ridden and seek medical attention. This obtains while many first-time visitors would not last a day without having serious problems with malaria, etc.

Strangely, campaigns aimed at exterminating the vectors spreading the diseases are seldom taken seriously. Indeed, there was time when insecticides meant to improve public health or boost crop production serves completely irrelevant causes.

That is for rural areas, and we are not suggesting that the problem is that rampant or universal. Yet even urban areas are far from spared the “curse” of recklessness when it comes to efforts to keep at bay or to the barest minimum communicable diseases spread by insects or some other vectors.

Dar es Salaam is a typical case of a series of costly efforts to contain malaria having failed mostly because the resources needed were in place but the implementation stage was punctured. As a result, the disease has stubbornly and successfully resisted most efforts aimed at dealing it a death blow.

Yes, some of the initiatives involved scores of local and foreign experts and massive amounts of money, but hardly any really sought to kill off the mosquitoes known to spread the killer disease.

There have been fears, later confirmed, that there were fake or substandard malaria drugs in the Tanzanian market – a challenges as serious as the misuse of these drugs, whether deliberate or due to ignorance.

Sustained and enhanced awareness campaigns on the importance of using appropriate medical drugs and only as recommended by medical experts is a must if society is to be spared the consequences of defaulting.

But just as important is ensuring that it is impossible for mosquitoes, bedbugs, lice, cockroaches, houseflies and other insects or pests to survive, much less thrive, in our immediate surroundings. It’s not that much of a big deal, but we all need to join the war.