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Malaria deaths rise in Oromia’s West Wollega Zone, new infections climb nationwide

Kondal district, situated within the West Wollega zone of the Oromia region, is one of several areas experiencing an upsurge in malaria cases. Reports indicate that at least four children in the district have succumbed to the disease since last week (Photo: DW)

Addis Abeba – Since last week, at least 11 individuals, including children, have succumbed to malaria in the West Wollega zone of the Oromia region.

Health experts and local residents informed Addis Standard that the malaria outbreak, coinciding with the onset of the winter season, is spreading rapidly, particularly in the Genji and Kondala districts of the West Wollega zone.

Gemechis Tesfaye, a resident of Lalisa Dibe village in the Genji district of the West Wollega zone, conveyed to Addis Standard the heartbreaking news of his sister’s death due to malaria last week.

His sister, a grade eight student, tested positive for malaria two weeks prior and succumbed to the disease after 14 days.

Tesfaye further recounted witnessing the deaths of Dangule Galata and Alami Duresa, two women residing nearby, who passed away only four days prior.

According to his account, these individuals were laid to rest in Busano Sicho village, located within the Genji district.

Tesfaye additionally indicated that numerous residents within his village have received positive test results for malaria.

He emphasized, “As a direct consequence of this widespread malaria outbreak in our villages, students are not attending school.”

Mohamed Adem, a resident of Kondala district within the West Wollega zone, revealed the tragic loss of four children in the district due to malaria.

He highlighted the recurring nature of malaria outbreaks in Kondala, with numerous villagers suffering and succumbing to the disease over the past week.

Adem further noted that the Begi district, also located within West Wollega, has been impacted by the malaria outbreak, albeit to a lesser extent compared to previous occurrences.

He emphasized the urgency of intervention, stating, “Without proper action from relevant stakeholders, there’s a significant risk of further fatalities among children, women, and elderly individuals.”

A senior expert from the Oromia Health Bureau, speaking to Addis Standard under the condition of anonymity, revealed that seven people died due to malaria last week in the village of Lalisa Dibe, located in the Genji district.

He also disclosed that malaria has affected 22 districts in the West Wollega zone, with Genji, Bikiltu Umbao, and Lalisa Dibe being the most impacted.

The health expert added that in the West Wollega zone, the number of people testing positive for malaria is increasing at an alarming rate. “Last week, 19,000 individuals tested positive, significantly surpassing the previous week’s count of 9,000 in the same area,” he stated.

The senior health expert attributed the rapid spread of malaria in the West Wollega zone to the onset of the winter season, a historically recognized peak period for malaria transmission in Ethiopia.

A late May 2024 report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) aligns with this observation.

The report details the occurrence of concurrent disease outbreaks, including malaria and cholera, following heavy rains in April and early May.

According to the UN agency, malaria outbreaks have been documented in 1,397 districts across the nation, with the Oromia and Amhara regions experiencing the highest caseloads.

The health expert elaborated that malaria is exhibiting a rapid expansion in other Oromia region areas, including Jimma, Illu Ababor, Nekemte, and Shashamane.

Health workers spraying anti-malaria chemicals in Begi district, West Wollega zone in September 2023 (Photo: Begi Communication Office/Facebook)

According to him, testing conducted at government health facilities within the Oromia region identified 57,000 malaria cases last week.

The senior health expert revealed a concerning statistic: 346 malaria-related fatalities within the Oromia region during the first nine months of the current fiscal year.

He further explained that the escalating malaria crisis has overwhelmed the government’s response capacity.

“Several factors contribute to the worsening situation: the government’s reluctance to declare a public health emergency due to political implications, a shortage of malaria medication, and a lack of testing equipment,” he elaborated. “Both the Oromia Health Bureau and the Ministry of Health are unable to control the spread of the disease.”

Stakeholders also emphasized that the ongoing security crisis within the Oromia region has hampered preventative efforts, further contributing to the spread of malaria.

Amhara, a region experiencing an escalating security crisis due to the conflict between government forces and the non-state militia Fano, is also contending with the spread of malaria.

Earlier this week, the Amhara Public Health Institute reported a concerning statistic: over 1.2 million people in the region have contracted malaria within the past eleven months.

Belay Bezhabhi, Director General of the Institute, indicated that the spread of malaria is anticipated to escalate further, especially after September.

A recent news report by Deutsche Welle highlights the detrimental impact of the ongoing militarized conflict and repeated road closures within the region. These disruptions have significantly hindered malaria control efforts and impeded the distribution of essential medications.

 According to the same news report, residents of Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara Region, have observed a substantial increase in malaria cases. Last week, out of 7,000 individuals screened, a significant 2,460 tested positive for the disease.

Ethiopia is currently witnessing a notable surge in malaria instances on a national scale.

A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights a disquieting pattern, with the tally of malaria cases registered thus far this year significantly surpassing the figures from the corresponding period in 2023, marking the highest count in the preceding seven years.

As per the report, there has been a slight uptick in the number of districts in Ethiopia recording at least one confirmed malaria case, escalating from 1,397 on 28 April to 1,399 by 26 May 2024.

Between 1 January and 26 May 2024, an excess of 1.8 million fresh incidents of malaria, resulting in 314 fatalities, were documented across the regions of Oromia (35%), Amhara (22%), Southwest (13%), and South (10%). AS

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