Already fighting to curb the coronavirus spread, Zimbabwe health authorities are also under pressure as they are facing a surge in malaria cases which has taken 152 lives a doctor said Friday.
The rise in malaria cases has brought concerns that some coronavirus cases may go unnoticed since some symptoms of the two diseases are similar.
As the country entered its fourth week of a five-week lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government announced a 45% rise in malaria cases compared to 2019 as the death toll rise more than 20%.
“This year the cumulative malaria cases in the country stand at 170 303 and the deaths are 152 compared to 117 715 and 127 in 2019 over the same period,” the health minister announced on Twitter.
The numbers were announced early this week.
“We are beginning to see the cases rising,” Norman Matara, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights told AFP on Friday.
“Unfortunately this is happening at a time we are battling with another health crisis –- the COVID-19 pandemic. “
“One of the conditions can be mistaken for the other because some of the symptoms tend to be similar,” said Matara.
Zimbabwe was already fighting with a sickly health system, lacking mass shortages of medicines and equipment, and strikes by doctors and nurses.
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation said the new coronavirus pandemic could severely disturb the anti-malaria battle in sub-Saharan Africa. It notified that malaria deaths risked doubling if efforts are not urgently scaled up.
The UN health agency urged countries in sub-Saharan Africa where nearly 95% of all the world’s malaria cases and deaths happen to make sure malaria prevention and treatment tools are ready before they are flooded with coronavirus cases.
Sub-Saharan Africa has reported relatively few cases in the coronavirus but the agency has long warned that weak health systems in the region risked becoming seriously swamped as cases increase.