April 30, 2014, 9:07 a.m.
Nearly 50 rally vehicles raced across the finish line in Angola today in the culmination of the 10-day, eight-country event "Racing Against Malaria". The event was coordinated by the South Africa Development Community (SADC) to mobilize governments, the private sector and citizens to test, treat and track malaria in cross-border and river basin areas
Malawi' Deputy Health Minister, the Honourable Dr Chikumbutso Hiwa met with the teams at the start of the rally in Lilongwe on April 14. Dr Hiwa said regional and national efforts are contributing to the reduction of malaria and strengthening the multi-level work towards a malaria-free Southern Africa by 2015. He wished the teams well and flagged them off.
The SADC Military Health Services Chiefs representative, Air Commodore (Dr) Chimedza flew in from Zimbabwe to join the rally at the start. He said, "Malaria is a threat to national and regional security, health, peace and development and the SADC Health Services have declared malaria enemy number one."
Rally participants included health workers, scientists, technicians, NGO workers and private sector partners, with the number of participants and vehicles growing as the raced moved on. The biggest group was in Namibia, where there were 30 cars and more than 100 participants. The vehicles made stops in every country along the route, screening local populations for malaria, providing treatment and mosquito nets treated with insecticide.
The teams also took the opportunities to map sites where cases were detected and to coordinate follow-up actions with local health workers. The rally emphasized the essential use of smart phones and global positioning satellites in hard-to-reach areas to identify and track malaria cases.
"This is critical in SADC cross-border areas where there are frequent movements of malaria-infected populations to areas with low malaria rates, and vice-versa", said Colonel Kaka Mudambo, Coordinator for the RBM South African Sub-Regional Network (SARN). "These movement can lead to malaria outbreaks within remote communities of low transmission countries, leading to high malaria burden and mortality because of the low immunity in those populations."
During their stops, the team emphasized the need for active screening, detection, notification and rapid response. They met with village health workers, reminding them that smart phones can be used to immediately report positive cases, as well as request rapid response from mobile malaria teams to test villages and eliminate mosquito-breeding sites in surrounding areas. The reported information is then immediately available electronically to health workers in other sADC villages for tracking purposes.
"The "Racing Against Malaria" rally has been a big undertaking and it would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors," said Dr Fatoumata Nafo Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. "The Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance, International Organisation of Migration, Hudson Pumps(USA) and Yokool (China) and many others have shown their commitment to eliminating malaria in this region. These partnerships and collaborations are the way forward, bringing all sectors to focus on fighting malaria together."
At the finish line, the participants said their rally across Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Angola was exciting and fruitful. They reflected on their successful testing and treating individuals, and their unique opportunities to provide malaria education to children through games. Participants said that meeting with health workers, community leaders, partners and others, will assist in strengthening cross-border and river basin initiatives to eliminate malaria in the region by 2015.