HEALTH issues are among the challenges facing the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Member States as they move towards greater integration.
Among other top diseases threatening health of the people in the community are HIV and Aids, Malaria, tuberculosis and stunting among children.
SADC recognises that close co-operation in the area of health is essential for the effective control of communicable and non-communicable diseases for addressing common concerns within the region.
The SADC Member States signed the Protocol on Health on the 18th of August 1999 to coordinate regional efforts on epidemic preparedness, mapping prevention, control and where possible the eradication of communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
Education and training, efficient laboratory services and common strategies to address the health needs of women, children and vulnerable groups are discussed within the Protocol. The Protocol encourages the establishment of institutional mechanisms within the health sector of the region to effectively implement the protocol.
The member states strive to combat different types of communicable and non-communicable diseases, applying both national and regional strategies, including implementing protocols of the community.
Article 9 of the SADC Health Protocol which was signed by Head of States and governments in 1999 addresses communicable disease control and Articles 10 through 12 look specifically at HIV and AIDS, malaria and TB.
The protocol wants the member states co-operate to harmonise, and where appropriate, standardise policies in the areas of case definitions for diseases, notification systems, treatment and management of major communicable diseases.
These are among issues that SADC ministers responsible for health and HIV meet in Dar es Salaam to brainstorm and resolve on the way forward. This is continuation of sectoral SADC meetings in the country since President John Magufuli took over leadership of the regional community in August this year.
Speaking over the meeting, Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Seniors and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, said the meeting, ending on Friday this week, will dwell into the HIV/Aids and malaria. Over 200 delegates from the member countries would participate in the meeting and give their countries’ positions in implementing the agreements and protocols in reducing health challenges.
The SADC member states have made progress in fight against communicable diseases in the past 15 years, contributing to a substantial reduction in the burden of the diseases and transmission across the region. Available data indicate that between 2015 and 2018 there has been 15 per cent reduction in tuberculosis mortality, the number of new malaria cases has decreased by almost 24 per cent.
The number of new malaria cases has decreased by almost 24 per cent and recorded a decline id 27 per cent of total new HIV infection s among people aged 15 years and above during 2010 and 2018. Five countries have reportedly registered a reduction on stunting.
Tanzania, on its part, has reduced the rate of new HIV/ Aids infections by 20.6 per cent among adults and 31.3 per cent among children below15 years old from 2010 to 2018.
Executive Director of the Tanzania Commission for Aids, Dr Leonard Maboko, explained that one of the measures taken to control HIV/Aids new infections was to speak to key vulnerable groups, such as sex workers, over means of protections.
Men circumcision, which is one of interventions, is also advocated among the public. “This is the area which we (Tanzania) are doing good comparing to other SADC member states. It had been proved that men circumcision helps in reducing HIV infections, so we must emphasize it by conducting various campaigns,” Dr Maboko said.
When presented a paper on country’s HIV prevalence and current interventions made, programme officer with the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), Dr Zeye Masunga, said between July and June this year a total of 13,335,119 Tanzanians were tested for HIV and received results.
Among them 345,903 (2.6 per cent) were HIV positive. He said male circumcision reduces chances of HIV transmission by 60 per cent. The recent statistics indicate that 17 regions had high HIV prevalence and low circumcision rate.
During a period of January to September we have circumcised 634,071 men out of a target of 890,106 men for 2019. The country new target is to reach 2.7 million men by 2022. Speaking over Tanzania efforts in fighting malaria, the minister Mwalimu said the country has made great strides, with reduction of malaria prevalence rate from 14.7 per cent in 2015 to 7 per cent in 2019.
She attributed the achievements to various measures ranging from prevention, treatment and awareness among the public. The country now invests more in destroying mosquito larvae after establishment of the Tanzania Biotech Products Limited located in Kibaha District, Coast Region.
Ms Mwalimu stated that Tanzania would capitalize on this meeting of the SADC ministers of health and HIV/Aids to market products of the industry for boosting fight against the malaria in the region.
“We believe that fight against malaria is not just to sleep in the mosquito net. We need also to destroy the larvae. Tanzania has capacity to produce amount of larvicides that would meet demand of the market in the SADC countries,’ she said.
Deputy Manager for the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Dr Samwel Lazaro, said Tanzania managed to reduce number of deaths from malaria by 63 per cent, from 6737 deaths in 2015 to 2540 last year.
Dr Lazaro also said fight against the disease among pregnant women was in good pace, with statistics show that an uptake of the second dose of the Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) has increased to 86 per cent this year from 56 per cent recorded last year.
He said in order to ensure that Tanzania reaches a target of eliminating malaria by 2030 as stipulated in the SADC declaration, the ministry has prepared Malaria Strategic Plan 2018-2020 that focuses on implementing various interventions by engaging the public.
He however pointed out some of the challenges facing the government in fighting malaria, including poor involvement of the public in efforts to protect environment and keep them clean in order to avoid mosquito breeding. There is also a challenge of not using medicated mosquito nets.
From 2015 to up-to-date, the government in collaboration with the stakeholders has distributed a total of 45,397,057b-medicated mosquito nets. The distribution was made through special campaigns among families, at primary schools and clinics.
On health services access, Tanzania has expanded a network of health facilities through construction and rehabilitation of more than 350 health facilities and improved fiscal decentralisation to enable better access of healthy services for vulnerable and marginalized thereby decreasing the number of people left behind.
Another issue that the SADC ministerial meeting would dwell into is stunting, which most of the members states are still struggling to meet the global target of less than 30 per cent prevalence rate. Only Seychelles performs well in this.