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Ministry of Health embarks on 5-year transformation agenda

THE Ministry of Health has embarked on a five-year transformation agenda running up to 2021 with a view to improve its services to the general  public as well as improve relations with the media across the country.On April 25, 2017, Zambia joins the rest of the World in commemorating the World Malaria Day and to mark this day, the National Malaria Elimination Centre (NMEC) in Zambia is poised to distribute  10 million treated mosquito nets nationwide  beginning with Luapula province this month. Our senior reporter MONICA KAYOMBO reports on what NMEC has lined up in its efforts to completely eliminate Malaria in Zambia by 2021.
THE Ministry of Health has embarked on a five-year transformation agenda running up to 2021 with a view to improve its services to the general  public as well as improve relations with the media across the country.
In view of its mission, the Ministry organised a two-day workshop for the media drawn from across the country  in an effort to empower them with knowledge on various contemporary health  issues ranging from the role of the media in promoting health and  the transformation agenda, environmental and public health, blood collections to reduce on the mortality rates.
To facilitate the workshop were among others, the producer and presenter of ZNBC’s Your Health Matters  Dr Tasila Peters, Deputy Director Public Health Dr Francis Bwalya, Dr Jabbin Mulwanda who is in charge of Technical and Health Services at the Ministry and Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Kennedy Malama, delivered their message in line with the ministry’s transformation vision.
The emphasis was on the role of the media in disseminating new developments and achievements recorded by the ministry in areas such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and how social media could be utilised effectively to promote good health.
For the sake of clarity, I will confine my article on malaria elimination presentation because we are in the month when Malaria Day is commemorated.
The  presentation by the National Malaria Elimination Centre (NMEC), director, Dr Elizabeth Kawesha on what is being done to bring malaria cases down was apt.
According to the UNICEF latest report, it is observed that though Zambia has made strides in malaria prevention and control in the last five years, the disease still kills more children under the age of five than any other illness.
The report further states that, malaria affects more than four million Zambians annually, accounting for approximately 30 percent of outpatient visits and resulting in almost 8,000 deaths annually.
Under five-year-old children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable, especially those in more remote and impoverished areas, with 35 to 50 percent of under-five mortality and 20 percent of maternal mortality attributable to malaria.
Malaria is both preventable and treatable, but it is a complicated disease whose prevention and control requires multiple interventions.
Dr Kawesha notes that, malaria which is most prevalent in the northern part of Zambia is the number two killer disease in Zambia and the country has since witnessed a revision in the treatment policy over the years and investigations on therapeutic efficacy have continued.
However, the NMEC has observed that Kazungula district in Southern Province has less cases of Malaria compared to other districts in the country.
The centre has continued to rely on research to use cost effective measures to curb the scourge and there has been sustained funding from the government every other year.
In Zambia, malaria has been the second highest killing diseases after HIV/AIDS and the disease is caused by a parasite from an anopheles or female mosquito.
Zambia’s Ministry of Health has a vision to eliminate the malaria pandemic by 2021 and maintain a malaria-free country.
The question is, how does the Ministry of Health plan to carry out its programmes to ensure the disease is kept at bay?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria disease incidences, prevalence, morbidity or mortality would reduce to acceptable levels if deliberate efforts are made.
Some of the key elimination interventions undertaken by the Ministry of Health in Zambia with all its co-operating partners is indoor residual spraying (IRS), use of treated insecticide mosquito nets, the management of larval source and the encouraged use of repellants and baited traps.
In pregnant women, the malaria drug is administered in first trimester and every month until delivery and the ministry is also ready to embrace new tools as they become available and are epidemiologically relevant.
The NMEC has built health systems capacity in terms of staffing, infrastructure and decentralisation and has drawn up a plan up to 2021.
In 2017, it has designed a malaria elimination communication campaign to ensure community buy in, has launched a national elimination strategy and has put up surveillance systems in all areas across  the country.
In 2018, the centre wants to eliminate malaria in at least 75 Health Facility Catchments (HFCA’S) and wants the illness burden reduced by 50 in all provinces.
According to the 2015 baseline as compiled by the NMEC, Malaria deaths reduced by 14 percent and by 2019, malaria deaths must be reduced by 28 percent of 2015 baseline.
The centre has projected  to reduce Malaria deaths by 2020, by 70 percent of the 2015 baseline and by the year 2021, the expectation is that malaria deaths would reduce by 100 percent based on the 2015 baseline.
The estimated cost for all the interventions by the NMEC is expected at $576, 025,400 by the year 2021.
Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr John Moyo was on hand to encourage the scribes to play a role in encouraging Zambians on the best health practices.
He said there is a risk of mis-information if the right information is not in the domain of the media and the public.
“I also hear you when you say your work requires investment. Whatever we do requires resources and we have to apportion appropriate resources if we are going to change,’’ he said.
Dr Moyo urged the journalists to be innovative in the way they report on issues and help change the behaviour of the masses.
He said he will ensure that certain measures are implemented at the Ministry to ensure progress in information flow.
He said he would be the happiest man to see the actualisation of the recommendations made by the ministry with the input of the media.
“I am told that you have come from all across the country. We have heard your concerns and you know where to find us,’’ he said.


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