Africa University’s Zimbabwe Entomological Support Programme in Malaria (ZENTO) that is funded and supported by PMI – the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, and the Ministry of Health and Child Care , officially became the first private university in Zimbabwe to be permitted to enter data onto the District Health Information System (DHIS2) on the 1st of August 2023. In a training session for lab scientists, field technicians and data capturers of ZENTO with the Ministry of Health and Child Care , Mr. Tapfumanei Ottias who is the Data Protection Manager of the DHIS2 in Zimbabwe said of the milestone, “Africa University was chosen by the Ministry of Health as it is a center of excellence and it produces great results when they are needed.” With some of the best mosquito surveillance equipment in the country and a dedicated team, the ZENTO programmes’ hard work is bearing fruit with recognition of the research coming out of the center of excellence gaining attention on the world stage.
The DHIS2 which was established in Zimbabwe 2012 and was then known as DHIS1, was an offline database and aggregated system that was intended to be a platform for national data storage to improve disease surveillance, pinpoint outbreaks, and overall enhance data access to improve health policy formulation and interventions. The system has since been upgraded to DHIS2 which is now online and global offering more data security, efficiencies in cataloguing and allows for refined analysis.
AU’s ZENTO programme has made great strides in the fight against Malaria since launching in 2021, working in 2 provinces of Zimbabwe, Mashonaland East and Manicaland, with 4 Districts from the former and 3 districts from the latter province. The utilization by ZENTO of the DHIS 2 enables users to know which mosquitoes are transmitting malaria in a particular area, preferred blood meals and the insecticides that can be used, especially for indoor residual spraying (IRS) or insecticide treated nets (ITNs), to prevent further cases and deaths and zero in on the national goal to ultimately eliminate malaria.
Dean for the College of Health Agriculture and Natural Sciences Professor Christian Chinyere Ezeala applauded his team for their stellar research further committing the College to advancing the work already underway. Professor Sungano Mharakurwa, ZENTO Chief of Party, reflected on how far the team has come since initially winning a grant to establish a Malaria Reference Insectary Unit at Africa University in 2016 in an effort to eliminate Malaria. The disease is especially prevalent in the Mutasa District of Zimbabwe which is disproportionately affected reinforcing his belief that the key to freeing Africa from the burden of Malaria lies within the continent through the many brilliant minds who enter the field yearly to make a difference.