The Zambian government has set a target to completely eliminate malaria-related deaths by 2030, a senior official announced at the Elimination 8 Initiative forum on Tuesday.
Health minister Chitalu Chilufya said the goal is in line with the government's road map in ensuring Zambia significantly increases its capacity to respond to the disease.
According to Xinhua, Chilufya said malaria-related deaths in the country have already reduced by about 70%, due to increased health investments.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through infected mosquitoes. If its first symptoms (fever, headache, and chills) are not treated within 24 hours, it can progress to severe illness and lead to death.
Although it is preventable and curable, the disease still kills about 435,000 people a year, with more than half of these being children.
Previously, the country aimed to eliminate malaria-related deaths by 2021. Zambia recorded a decline in malaria incidence rates from 407 cases per 1,000 in 2014 to 336 cases per 1,000 in 2017, reported Reuters.
“It counters progress in development but it is a preventable and treatable disease,” Chilufya said.
In recent years, Zambia changed its goal from malaria control — or reducing the number of cases to a very low level — to eliminating the disease — or reducing the number of indigenous cases to zero — according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization said that if Zambia eliminates malaria, since the country is landlocked and shares borders with countries that are malaria endemic, public health authorities would need to monitor multiple border crossings to prevent further outbreaks.
Last year, a pilot project in the Serenje district of Zambia that treated children with suspected severe malaria and then transported them to a health facility by bicycles, was reportedly successful in cutting malaria deaths by 96%.
Something miraculous is happening in Zambia.— Gates Foundation (@gatesfoundation) April 18, 2018
The country has seen a 92% reduction in malaria deaths since 2014.
Here's how they did it. pic.twitter.com/c2Vkh20mRT
According to the WHO, the world has made significant progress in tackling malaria with death rates dropping by 60%, saving 6 million lives.
Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2017, the continent was responsible for 92% of malaria cases worldwide and 93% of all malaria deaths.
“The long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the main reason why [the vast majority] of the world's malaria cases are in Africa,” states the WHO.
As of 2017, 87 countries and areas had ongoing malaria transmission. Although sub-Saharan Africa poses the highest risk, the WHO says Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Western Pacific, and the Americas also struggle to eliminate the disease.
Countries that have achieved at least three consecutive years of zero local cases of malaria can apply to the WHO for a certification of malaria elimination. In recent years, countries including Morocco, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan have been deemed malaria-free.