Angola battles soaring number of malaria cases as resistance to antimalarials grows

ANGOLA – At least 377,599 new cases of malaria have been registered in Angola’s northern province during the first half of this year, which resulted in the death of 268 people, the supervisor of the provincial program of fight against malaria, Luis Demba, has said.

Demba explained that in comparison with the same period in 2020, there has been an increase in the number of cases and a reduction in the number of deaths.

According to Angola’s Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta, the northern region, between January and May 2021, reported nearly 3.8 million cases of malaria and 5,573 deaths, representing an increase of cases, but a reduction of deaths compared to the same period in 2020.

Malaria is the leading cause of death in the country, affecting more pregnant women and children under five years old in terms of mortality,” Lutucuta said, adding that most of the deaths have been registered among vulnerable families battered with severe anemia, malnutrition and complications often associated with malaria.

The Ministry of Health has said it is strengthening its methodological guidelines, and that it is up to the provinces and municipalities to make them operational through the implementation of a multi-sector contingency plan to respond to malaria.

The plain entails measures such as an emergency plan for arboviruses, strengthened surveillance, the search for cases, and improvement of medical assistance to patients.

At the same time, resistance to antimalarial medicines is a recurring problem. Resistance of P. falciparum malaria parasites to previous generations of medicines, such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s, undermining malaria control efforts and reversing gains in child survival.

Protecting the efficacy of antimalarial medicines is critical to malaria control and elimination. Regular monitoring of drug efficacy is needed to inform treatment policies in malaria-endemic countries, and to ensure early detection of, and response to, drug resistance.

In 2013, WHO launched the Emergency response to artemisinin resistance (ERAR) in the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS), a high-level plan of attack to contain the spread of drug-resistant parasites and to provide life-saving tools for all populations at risk of malaria.

But even as this work was under way, additional pockets of resistance emerged independently in new geographic areas of the subregion.

In parallel, there were reports of increased resistance to ACT partner drugs in some settings. A new approach was needed to keep pace with the changing malaria landscape.

At the World Health Assembly in May 2015, WHO launched the Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong subregion (2015–2030), which was endorsed by all the countries in the subregion.

Urging immediate action, the strategy calls for the elimination of all species of human malaria across the region by 2030, with priority action targeted to areas where multidrug resistant malaria has taken root.

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