BACKGROUND : With a sustained national malaria incidence of fewer than one case per 1000 population at risk, in 2012
South Africa officially transitioned from controlling malaria to the ambitious goal of eliminating malaria within its borders
by 2018. This review assesses the progress made in the 3 years since programme re-orientation while highlighting
challenges and suggesting priorities for moving the malaria programme towards elimination.
METHODS : National malaria case data and annual spray coverage data from 2010 until 2014 were assessed for trends.
Information on surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems, human and infrastructure needs and community
malaria knowledge was sourced from the national programme mid-term review.
RESULTS : Malaria cases increased markedly from 6811 in 2013 to 11,711 in 2014, with Mpumalanga and Limpopo
provinces most affected. Enhanced local transmission appeared to drive malaria transmission in Limpopo Province,
while imported malaria cases accounted for the majority of cases reported in Mpumalanga Province. Despite these
increases only Vhembe and Mopani districts in Limpopo Province reported malaria incidences more than one case
per 1000 population at risk by 2014. Over the review period annual spray coverage did not reach the recommended
target of 90 % coverage, with information gaps identified in parasite prevalence, artemether-lumefantrine therapeutic
utilization, asymptomatic/sub-patent carriage, drug efficacy, vector distribution and insecticide resistance.
CONCLUSIONS : Although South Africa has made steady progress since adopting an elimination agenda, a number
of challenges have been identified. The heterogeneity of malaria transmission suggests interventions in Vhembe
and Mopani districts should focus on control, while in KwaZulu-Natal Province eliminating transmission foci should
be prioritized. Cross-border initiatives with neighbouring countries should be established/strengthened as a matter
of urgency since malaria importation poses a real threat to the country’s elimination efforts. It is also critical that
provincial programmes are adequately resourced to effectively conduct the necessary targeted elimination activities,
informed by current vector/parasite distribution and resistance data. More sensitive methods to detect sub-patent
infections, primaquine as a transmission-blocking drug, and alternative vector control methods need to be investigated.
Knowledge gaps among malaria health workers and affected communities should be identified and addressed.