Spotlight: Dr. Zephirin, Angola

Dr. Zephirin, Provincial Malaria Program Officer, Cunene, Angola.

Dr. Zephirin, Provincial Malaria Program Officer, Cunene, Angola.

Angola is a resource rich country and one of Africa’s largest oil producers; but a 27-year civil war from 1975-2002 ravaged infrastructure, crippled the health system, and left many people impoverished. The gross national income per capita is 20 percent higher than the average for the region, but wealth is highly concentrated. Children are dying from preventable or easily treatable conditions such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea.

In 1992 a young physician from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Zephirin Meya, immigrated to Angola to serve as a doctor in an emergency humanitarian assistance program. Once Angola emerged from the war in 2002, Dr. Zephirin continued working with NGOs to rehabilitate the Angolan national health system. He describes the experience as a time when “I learned to work under pressure and with people of different nationalities and cultures.”

In 2005 he joined the National Malaria Control Program as the Provincial Malaria Program Officer and began working on indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaigns in 2006. He describes his work in malaria control as “giving my contribution in the fight against a disease responsible for a high rate of morbidity and mortality in our society.” In Angola, malaria causes 35% of deaths among children under 5 years of age.

Dr. Zephirin tells us about current malaria control efforts and what more is needed to drive away malaria in Angola.

AIRS: Tell me about what you are doing Cunene to prevent malaria.

Dr. Z: Several malaria interventions are integrated and implemented in Cunene Province including indoor residual spraying of homes, distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women, and the use of bacteria to kill mosquito larvae at breeding sites. IRS has been implemented annually in Cunene since 2006 with funding from the U.S. Presidential Malaria Initiative through USAID. In Cunene, IRS covers two municipalities, Cuanhama and Namacunde, with the target of spraying 16,000 structures with insecticide. IRS kills mosquitoes resting inside homes, preventing mosquito bites that transmit malaria.

AIRS: What are the results of IRS?

Dr. Z: In 2012, AIRS protected 676,000 people in Angola from malaria including more than 115,000 children under 5 years of age. IRS, along with other malaria control programs, contributed to the reduction of malaria cases and deaths. The Cunene Provincial Malaria Control Program reported that malaria cases decreased by 57% and malaria deaths decreased by 50% from 2008 to 2012.

AIRS: Tell me about some of the people you have met who benefit from IRS.

Dr. Z: In general, beneficiaries already experienced the great effect of IRS in killing mosquitoes and others insects in their homes. They know that by killing mosquitoes, IRS can prevent mosquito bites and therefore malaria. They are showing their support for IRS by allowing their houses to be sprayed. People must be home to remove their belongings before their home is sprayed, which may cause them to miss a day of farming or going to the market. However, most people believe the benefit of spraying and protecting their family from malaria is worth the sacrifice.

AIRS: What is the role of IRS in Angola’s malaria prevention strategy?

Dr. Z: IRS is a key malaria prevention method that is part of the National Malaria Control Program’s National Strategic Plan for 2011 to 2015. IRS activities are carried out in close partnership with government stakeholders.

AIRS: What is needed to eliminate malaria in Angola?

Dr. Z: The commitment of the Angolan government is needed to increase the sustainable financing of the malaria prevention and control activities. Fortunately, that is already in progress with the ongoing national program of decentralization of health services. Through this program, the Angolan government is providing funds to all municipalities to perform activities of primary health care. This has led to an increase in coverage of basic health services. The country is making progress, but we still have several obstacles to overcome. We must remain steadfast in the fight against malaria.