Artemisinin can aid Zimbabwe wipe out Malaria

Chris Mahove

Zimbabwe has made considerable progress in reducing malaria incidence over the past decade although the figures remain worrisome as the nation is striving to completely eliminate the disease.

Addressing the International Forum on the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Artemisinin and on Building a Global Community of Health for All last recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said sustained political commitment to malaria prevention, control and elimination had seen the country’s incidence of malaria significantly reduced over the period 2009 to 2021

This, he said, was as a result of huge investments in Indoor Residual Spraying, distribution of long lasting insecticidal treated nets and universal access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment services.

The rapid decline in the number of cases coincided with the adoption of the Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACTs) in 2009 with use of Coartemether and Artesunate Amodiaquine (ASAQ) as first and second line treatments for uncomplicated malaria respectively.

“Due to its ease in storage, prescribing and patient monitoring malaria treatment, 3 million positive malaria cases have been treated with Coartemether by trained community health workers since 2013. Malaria Community Case Management has greatly improved access to care by hard-to-reach communities with more favorable patient outcomes,” the President said.

President Mnangagwa noted that about 600,000 positive cases during the past 5 years were managed at community level, adding that according to the 2019 Case Management Audit Report, 94% of malaria cases received the correct first line malaria treatment.

“Due to a rapid resolution of symptoms and low probability of adverse events following administration, there has been high acceptance levels of Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACTs) by the population,”

He said this had improved adherence to treatment with only 3% of malaria cases progressing to severe disease, which resulted in a gradual decline in malaria mortality 1 per 100,000 population in 2021.

The continued use of Artemisinin, therefore, is likely to help towards the country’s goal of totally eliminating malaria by 2025.

China was the first country to discover artemisinin and created a new method of malaria treatment and significantly reducing then fatality rate among patients. 

And on the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Artemisinin and on Building a Global Community of Health for All held in Beijing, China reiterated its commitment to enter into closer exchange and cooperation in public health work with the international community and join hands in responding to global threats and challenges, work to build a global community of health for all, and make greater contribution to protecting the health of people of all countries.

China’s Foreign Affairs Minister, noted that the Asian country was proactively promoting the use of artemisinin, which he said had saved millions of lives in the world, especially in developing countries, and made important contribution to the global prevention and treatment of malaria and the protection of human health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 240 million people have benefited from artemisinin-based combination therapies.

“Since its discovery, artemisinin has helped China successfully eliminate malaria within its borders. In the meantime, China also extended a helping hand to the world by launching large-scale international anti-malaria assistance with artemisinin at the core.

“By the end of 2021, China had provided billions of doses of artemisinin medicines, trained tens of thousands of anti-malaria professionals for developing countries, assisted in the construction of malaria prevention and treatment centers for 30 countries, and sent 28,000 medical team members to 72 developing countries for malaria prevention and treatment by widely using artemisinin drugs and therapies. Artemisinin has become a shiny poster for China’s small yet smart assistance programs in other countries, “he said.

At the International Forum on the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of Artemisinin and on Building a Global Community of Health for All held in Beijing, China pledged to work with the international to help fight malaria through the use artemisinin; and Zimbabwe should take advantage of its strong ties with the Asian country and partner it in the fight against the disease.

 The forum was held under the theme “Strengthening international development cooperation on fighting malaria by artemisinin, jointly building a global community of health for all” and was co-hosted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency, the National Health Commission, and the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Fifty years ago, Chinese scientists represented by Tu Youyou first discovered and successfully extracted artemisinin by unremitting efforts, creating a new method of malaria treatment and significantly reducing the fatality rate of malaria patients.

Artemisinin embodies a success story of mankind’s arduous struggle to defeat diseases. It is also China’s successful practice in committing itself to the building of a community of health for all, strengthening solidarity with fellow developing countries and benefiting the world.

At present, malaria is still threatening the health of people in many countries, and COVID-19 remains the biggest challenge facing the international community. China calls on all countries in the world to put aside their differences and get united so as to make unremitting efforts to eliminate major infectious diseases such as malaria, defeat the COVID-19 pandemic globally, and improve the international health governance system.  

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