MANY developing countries have been struggling to control malaria, HIV, and maternal mortality, but for Zanzibar the progress is arguably encouraging.
Sustainable measures are being taken to control the diseases and other health problems, and so far, there have been impressive gains in combating malaria. Its prevalence rate is still at 0.4 per cent.
Recently there was a rise of malaria cases in some areas of Zanzibar, according to Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Programme (ZAMEP) Manager Abdalla Suleiman.
“We must work hard to control the spread highly linked to people who travel outside Zanzibar and return without checking their health status,” he said. He said about 6,000 people were diagnosed with malaria, blaming lack of use of treated mosquito nets and filth environment.
The manager said that despite the “slight increase”, malaria prevalence is still below one per cent. “Our department under the Ministry of Health is taking different measures to stop malaria,” he explained. A global malaria campaign “zero malaria starts with me” is a strong political slogan that needs to be put into practice involving everyone.
He says more efforts are being taken to educate the public on how to fight and control malaria, distribution of mosquito nets free of charge and application of malaria insecticide spraying programmes in the affected localities.
Addressing the public during the climax of the 56th anniversary of the Revolution, President Ali Mohamed Shein also said that the HIV infection rate has been declining. It reached at 0.4 per cent in 2019 from 0.6 per cent in 2010.
In addition, he said great strides have been made in reducing maternal mortality whereby in 2019 the rate stood at 155 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 288 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. In a similar vein, particular emphasis has been laid on educating pregnant mothers on the safety and health benefits of hospital delivery as opposed to home delivery.
Efforts undertaken have indeed borne fruit as the total number of home deliveries decreased from 51,912 in 2010 to 37,803 in 2019. Dr Shein attributed further successes in the health sector to the increase of the annual budget of the Ministry of Health from 10.81bn/- in 2010 to 104.24bn/- this fiscal year (2019/2020).
“Both preventive and curative services have been enhanced noticeably and are being provided free of charge in all public hospitals and health centres in Unguja and Pemba,” Dr Shein explained.
He said that measures have been undertaken to improve health services at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, which has now been upgraded to a referral hospital and officially recognized as among the teaching hospitals in the East African Community.
The success is also linked to efforts taken to train more doctors, as the doctor-patient ratio currently stands at 1: 6,276 from 1: 31,838 in 2010. The increase in the number of doctors and other health professionals has led to the improvement in detecting and investigating various diseases using modern facilities.
At the same time, the improved working environment has led to the attainment of notable successes in combating various diseases. However, despite these enormous achievements gained in the health sector, collective efforts are needed to be able to surmount some challenges facing hospitals both in Unguja and Pemba, Dr Shein said.
“Among those challenges include a surge in incidences of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as well as cervical and other types of cancers,” the president said. “It is my hope that our medical experts at the Zanzibar Health Research Institute will diligently work with other teams of experts at national and international levels in undertaking more research on the causes, symptoms and treatments of those diseases,” he said.
Health minister Hamad Rashid Mohamed said the government is committed to improving health services in the country as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.