Malaria in Tanzania in sharp decline, statistics bureau says

26Apr 2018
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Malaria in Tanzania in sharp decline, statistics bureau says
  • According to officially-sanctioned survey data, the prevalence rate as per national population dropped from 14.4 to 7.3 per cent between 2015 and 2017

IT’S now official: The prevalence of the malaria disease in Tanzania has gone down by almost half in the past three years.

According to the latest researched figures on the disease sanctioned by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the prevalence rate compared to the national population dropped from 14.4 per cent in 2015 to 7.3 per cent in 2017, as per malaria tests done by use of mRDT.

NBS director general Dr Albina Chuwa revealed this yesterday during the formal launch of the 2017 Tanzania Malaria Indicator Survey (2017 TMIS) report as part of the International Malaria Day commemoration held in Kigoma region.

The survey was implemented by NBS and the Chief Government Statistician’s office in Zanzibar, in collaboration with the health ministries of both the Mainland and Zanzibar.

Financial support for the survey was provided by the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Fund. Technical assistance came through the DHS Program, a USAID-funded initiative offering such assistance in the implementation of population and health surveys in countries worldwide.

Said Dr Chuwa: “If you look at the statistics of 2017, the country’s economy continued to grow at 7.1 percent by 2016 and this indicates that health and social services contributed to this growth.”

Health and social services improved from 5.2 per cent in 2016 to 5.9 percent in terms of economic growth last year, the NBS boss added.

She further explained that “the 0.7 per cent increase for the two sectors can be interpreted that they have continued to reinforce the national economy.”

According to the 2017 TMIS report, some regions in the country performed well and others less so in implementing their malaria control programmes.

Dr Chuwa suggested that authorities in regions which did poorly to take serious measures to rectify this weakness.

She also called on households to imbibe a culture of adhering to cleanness in their respective areas of residence by clearing surroundings that have become shelters for mosquitoes.

“It is the responsibility of families to do this, and not the government. Everyone should play his or her part,” she asserted, adding:

“If we manage to eliminate malaria, this country will have energetic citizens who can work hard towards realizing the government-driven industrialization agenda, hence averting poverty.”

The 2017 TMIS report incorporates assessments of the level of ownership and use of mosquito nets in the country and coverage of intermittent preventive malaria treatments for pregnant women.

It also identifies various treatment practices including the use of specific anti-malarial medications for children age 6-59 months, and measures the prevalence of the disease along with anaemia among children of this age group.

Furthermore, the report assesses knowledge, attitudes, and practices among adults with malaria.

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, cited regions with the highest rates of malaria infections especially among children aged below five years as Kigoma (leading with 24.4 per cent), Geita (17.3 per cent), Kagera (15.4 per cent), and Tabora (14.8 per cent).

Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Njombe, Songwe, Dodoma and Songwe regions have the lowest rate infections with less than 1 per cent each, Mwalimu said.

“These statistics have shown that malaria infections have declined and this is good news to everyone,” the minister remarked, adding:

“As a nation and a society, we should continue to join hands in fighting malaria, especially for the sake of young children and expectant mothers.”

She also noted that some Tanzanians still tend to misuse the long-lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) that are supposed to be distributed for free by the government.

“The nets are safe and it is false to say that using them may lead to fertility breakdowns, especially among men,” stated Mwalimu.

Among partners in the government’s anti-malaria drive are the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) through USAID Tanzania, John Hopkins Centre for Communication in Tanzania, the government of Switzerland, the Global Fund, and the Vector Works project.

According to USAID Tanzania mission director Andy Karas, over the past decade in Tanzania, PMI purchased and distributed nearly 10 million mosquito nets, 20 million rapid diagnostic test kits, and 38 million doses of the effective ACT treatments, while protecting over 2 million people annually through indoor spraying.

“Many children are alive today because of the PMI’s efforts in Tanzania and 18 other countries around Africa where the initiative operates,” Karas said.

The Swiss ambassador to Tanzania, Florence Tinguell, said her country has been supporting the Ifakara Health Institute to carry out malaria-related research for over 50 years.