LUBONA MWIMBE, Kitwe
ZAMBIA has made strides in malaria prevention and control in the last five years, but the disease still kills more children under the age of five than any other illness.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) annual report for 2016, malaria affects more than four million Zambians annually, accounting for approximately 30 percent of outpatient visits and resulting in almost 8,000 deaths each year, with under-five children and pregnant women being the most vulnerable.
Of all the people who die from malaria, 50 percent or more are children under the age of five and 20 percent are pregnant women. Great numbers of these deaths come from more remote and impoverished areas.
Malaria is both preventable and treatable, but it is a complicated disease whose prevention and control require multiple interventions. Preventing malaria requires creating an environment that is free from malaria by, for example, spraying the inner walls with insecticide.
Other preventive measures include sleeping under an insecticide treated mosquito net and environmental control. In cases where prevention fails, prompt and effective treatment is imperative.
Combating malaria is vitally important so as to save young lives and protect children from losing their parents.
This is why Mopani Copper Mine (MCM) has over the years invested in annual indoor residual spray (IRS) as part of their contribution to a campaign aimed at ending malaria in Zambia.
The campaign has been launched in Mufulira and Kitwe, where the mining firm is targeting to fumigate 40,189 houses.
MCM chief executive officer Johan Jansen said the mining firm has allocated K3.3 million in the 2017 budget to support various activities aimed at combating malaria in Mufulira and Kitwe.
This is in line with the National Malaria Elimination Strategic Plan (NMESP) aimed at making Zambia malaria-free.
“We are targeting to spray 40,189 households in Mufulira and Kitwe as part of our contribution to national efforts aimed at eradicating the disease. This signifies an increase of 17 percent from the 34,300 households that we sprayed last year,” he said.
Mr Jansen said MCM will continue to implement anti-malaria activities that include the annual residual spraying of houses and the clearing of drainages to remove stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
He said other anti-malaria activities include information dissemination on malaria and how it can be prevented. The efforts should culminate into prompt diagnosis and effective treatment of patients.
“To successfully implement these activities, we have over the past 10 years been spending in excess of K3 million annually on the community,” Mr Jansen said.
He said surveys taken by independent bodies and MCM medical personnel have consistently shown a significant reduction in morbidity and mortality attributed to malaria among employees of the mining firm, their dependents and the general communities, in Mufulira and Kitwe.
Mr Jansen said there is a notable increase in knowledge about malaria among people in communities and that many lives have been saved through the robust malaria control programme.
And Mufulira deputy mayor Beatrice Kapansa said the IRS programme is vital as it is aimed at halting the spread of malaria.
She said Government has partnered with MCM to clear the breeding places for mosquitoes to protect people from being bitten by adult mosquitoes.
Ms Kapansa said the intervention will go a long way in supplementing Government’s efforts aimed at ensuring that there is a healthy and productive population which would help to lift Zambia out of poverty and propel it to prosperity.
She urged MCM to continue with the numerous health activities it is offering to the people and also encouraged the local community to play their part in malaria prevention programmes.
“This situation calls for concerted effort from the corporate world, the community and the Government’” she said.
And Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe said malaria should not continue to kill people because the disease is not only preventable but curable too.
Mr Kang’ombe said Kitwe is proud of MCM’s health initiatives because they are in tandem with Government’s agenda of bringing quality health care closer to people.
He said he is aware of the numerous programmes that the mining firm is offering to people besides malaria prevention.
MCM is offering free cervical cancer screening to women in Kitwe and is also conducting correctional treatment for children that have club foot.
Mr Kang’ombe said other programmes include the highly successful HIV/AIDS programme.
He urged MCM to continue with their community programmes that are aimed at improving the lives of the people in the communities.
Mr Kang’ ombe urged people in the community to participate in malaria prevention by having their houses sprayed.