The Southern African Development Community (SADC) commemorated Malaria Day last week on the 6th of November. The initiative aims to create awareness about malaria and mobilise the community to participate in existing malaria control programs.

Malaria, a life-threatening disease, is caused by parasites. These are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitos. Almost half of the world’s population is at risk, but children, pregnant women and non-immune travellers from malaria-free areas are especially vulnerable to the disease when they become infected.

The SADC uses health education to encourage people to use personal protective measures against mosquitos, to recognise the signs and symptoms of malaria, to seek treatment when they become ill and to provide more home-based treatment.

Data from 2015 show that 89% of global malaria cases occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa – as did 91% of malaria deaths.

FAR-LeaF research fellow Dr Vincent Pagiwa is studying Climate change and Malaria variability in the Okavango region of Botswana: A social vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment.

Botswana has seen a remarkable decline in confirmed cases, with overall endemicity of malaria and it is estimated that only 6.3% of people live in areas of active malaria transmission. The areas surrounding the Okavango Delta still present remain the area with the highest number of cases recorded.

Environmental degradation and social and economic pressures resulting from population growth may also boost the expansion of malaria-prone areas around the delta. Factors such as population migrations, drug and pesticide resistance and the deterioration of health service delivery systems influenced the level of malaria transmission.

 Dr Pagiwa believes that socioeconomic and health system factors need to be explored as they may pose the risk of malaria endemicity in the Okavango region. The failure to achieve malaria elimination in Botswana by 2020 was attributed to weak disease surveillance systems and a lack of capacity to optimally implement key interventions. There is, therefore, a need in this region to assess household and health system factors exposing communities and individuals to malaria infections. His research project considers the changes in the environment that has a direct and indirect impact on human health and wellbeing.


Vulnerability assessment is important as it allows researchers to understand people and places that are more susceptible to malaria – specifically associated with climate-related exposure. This form of assessment can inform policy and deploy malaria interventions and strategic allocation of resources to malaria-prone regions.

It is imperative to incorporate all related disciplines such as social and economic sciences, geographic information systems and statistics that will give an extensive description of all malaria risk factors. “If we identify where social vulnerabilities exist, the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Botswana can develop health interventions and health adaptation strategies that are tailored specifically to the Okavango region,” says Dr Pagiwa.

 

Dr Vincent Pagiwa

Public Health Research Fellow
Okavango Research Institute
University of Botswana
Botswana


View Profile

 

Prof Stephanie Burton

Prof Stephanie Burton

Research and Postgraduate Education
FAR-LeaF Program Director
University of Pretoria
South Africa

View Profile

 

“If we identify where social vulnerabilities exist, the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Botswana can develop health interventions and health adaptation strategies that are tailored specifically to the Okavango region.”

 

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.