It’s often a question in quizzes: What’s the most deadly animal in Africa? Many people get it wrong – because it’s not an elephant, lion or even the fierce hippo…it’s the anopheles mosquito.
That’s because it’s a carrier of malaria, which kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide annually – the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, on World Malaria Day yesterday, we got the good news that the disease is being pushed back with vigour in South Africa.
We appear to be on track to eliminate transmission of the disease by 2023, according to the Director of Malaria Vector and Zoonotic Diseases at the National Department of Health, Patrick Moonasar.
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He said the number of malaria cases in South Africa decreased by 88% from 64 622 cases in 2000, to 8 126 in 2020. Deaths due to the disease decreased by 92%, from 459 in 2000, to 38 in 2020.
Those, frankly, are astounding figures and something of which this country can justifiably be proud. It’s also a rare piece of good news in a country still reeling from the ongoing devastation of Covid-19, which has claimed just under 54 000 lives so far.
Ironically, the malaria success story also stands as a stark counterpoint to the seeming “rabbit in the headlights” posture of the health department and Covid experts about getting our vaccination programme going.
We have turned away the Astra Zeneca vaccine on grounds of efficacy and we are debating the Johnson & Johnson jabs because of ultra-rare cases of side-effects – including blood clots – in women who received the inoculation overseas.
At this rate, it certainly looks as though transmission of malaria will be virtually eliminated long before we have effectively dealt with the effect of coronavirus.
Malaria has always been regarded as a disease which hobbled African progress; let’s not say the same about Covid-19.
LOCAL ELECTIONS 2021