13 Oct 2009

Malaria being reduced in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands

12:58 pm on 13 October 2009

The number of people with malaria has been significantly reduced in both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

The illness is endemic to all parts of the Solomons and to many parts of Vanuatu, as well as Papua New Guinea.

Radio New Zealand International reports a million people die of malaria worldwide every year. Most of them are young children. The illness is borne by mosquitoes

Vanuatu's manager for malaria control George Taleo says the parasite incidence has dropped from over 190 cases in 1989 to less than 14 cases at the end of 2008."

The situation is similiar in Solomon Islands. Malaria control manager Albino Bobogare says 82 people out of 1000 had malaria there in 2008, compared to 152 in 2006.

The fall is due to a number of reasons: distribution of bednets treated with insecticide , more house spraying, targeting the areas where malaria remains a big problem.

There is also active case detection in risk areas where blood samples are tasken and who have malaria parasites, receive treatment.

There's also been an improvement in the availability of drugs for treatment in both countries and in many cases earlier detection.

Community awareness also plays a big part. Educational material has been developed; teams are working around the provinces visiting villages and communities. Anti-malaria measures are also broadcast by radio.

Both countries receive help from a number of sources, including the World Health Organisation, the Australian government and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

The UN has a millennium goal: to halt and reverse the spread by 2015.

Elimination programme

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community's public health programme manager, Dr Thierry Jubeau, says the two countries are now able to focus on eliminating the illness, rather than just controlling it.

He says the goal is to decrease the number of people suffering from malaria in the Solomons from 82 to 46, and in Vanuatu from 14 to 7 by 2014 in line with the UN's plan.

An elimination programme in the Solomons will start in Temotu province in the south and will then move northwards.

Vanuatu is starting a campaign in Tefoa province and also plans to move northwards. It hopes malaria cases will be near-zero by 2030 or 2040.