Establishing Mobile Outreach Teams (MOTs) for strengthening Active Case Detection with Mobile Populations in Vietnam 2016-2020

Mobile migrant populations present a special challenge for malaria control and elimination efforts. Nguyen Ha Nam and colleagues* (Nguyen Xuan Thang, Gary Dahl, James O’Donnell, Vashti Irani, Sara Canavati, Jack Richards, Ngo Duc Thang, and Tran Thanh Duong) presented their study of this group at the recent Malaria World Congress. They are also sharing what they learned below.

Mobile Migrant Populations (MMPs) are a key population for containing the spread of malaria in the border areas between Cambodia and Vietnam. The number of imported cases in Viet Nam in 2017. 12,5% of such cases caught in Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong provinces and all of them came from Cambodia. The provinces bordering Cambodia and Vietnam have been had the highest malaria transmission intensity. This borders are frequented by MMPs who have proven difficult to target for surveillance and malaria control activities.

Mobile Outreach Teams (MOTs) provide a potential approach to target malaria elimination activities for MMPs who may not be strongly supported by the regular village-based and clinic-based health services. This work describes the implementation of MOTs in Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong Provinces, which are high-risk regions along the Viet Nam-Cambodia border. These activities were conducted as part of the Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative (RAI) in 2017. Each MOT was comprised of 2 Commune Health Staff and 1 Village Health Worker (VHW) from the village nearest to the outreach area.

In the first phase of the pilot, 3 communes of 2 districts in Binh Phuoc and 2 communes of 1 district in Dak Nong with highest malaria cases reported from NIMPE are selected as targeted areas. The Objectives were to …

  • Design/tailor Mobile Outreach Information Education and Communication/Behaviour change communication (BCC/ IEC) Toolkit
  • Intensify case detection and quality management by increasing the coverage of diagnostics and treatment for hard to reach populations
  • Strengthen outreach to high-risk and under-served populations through MOT scouting activities to locate unreached Mobile Communities and map their locations
  • Link MMPs with health facilities and Village Health Workers

All MOT members were provided with smartphones and were trained on how to use the EpiCollect5 app to track malaria cases, record mapping information and upload real-time reports of these malaria cases. MOTs conducted 5-day outreach activities every month. These activities began with scouting out locations of the MMP communities.

Once located, the MOTs geo-tagged the location of the community, conducted a short epidemiological survey on the community and screened for malaria using Rapid Diagnostic Tests and blood smear microscopy. Active malaria cases were provided with treatment according to the National guidelines, and Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets were distributed based on results of diagnosis and the survey.

This action has led to increased diagnosis and treatment of hard to reach MMPs with increased access by those communities to malaria services. Improved understanding and increased use of malaria prevention practices hard to reach MMP communities/households. Mapped of previously unreached MMP Communities and unofficial border crossing points with malaria transmission hotspots and highly frequented crossing identified. The number of MMPs were monitored by MOTs were 2,699 accounting for 5.18% of the population in the project sites (2,699/52,095).

These screened MMPs were almost located along the border among project communes in Bu Gia Map National Forest where have a lot of unofficial border crossers, timber camp communities, and other revolving communities. 1,977 targeted people were tested for malaria. This number was achieved 73.25% of mobile migrant people (1,977/2,699). This work highlights how MOTs can target the previously unreached populations of MMPs to strengthen malaria surveillance and active case responses to reduce malaria transmission in Viet Nam.

A system of real-time data collection of malaria cases from VHWs and MOTs using mobile phone uploads was established. Border screening and tracking hard to reach communities is a useful approach to implement to identify imported cases; however, it is labor-intensive, and misses subjects crossing at unofficial borders due to limited working time of MOTs (5 days a month).

Positive cases in Binh Phuoc province are maintained for keeping track after receiving treatment due to no confirmed cases detected in targeted communes in Dak Ngo province, though these communes mainly have numerous transient timber camps moving in deep forests, and highly mobile border-crossers moving between regions and countries frequently. Future work will combine routine support from District health staff and expand the role of VHWs with motorbike provision for each MOT in order to not only to improve their quality outreach activities but also develop stronger Active Case Detection in the next phase of the project.

*Team members represent the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Hanoi, Viet Nam; Health Poverty Action, London, UK; and the Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia.


  • Kheang ST, Lin MA, et al. Malaria Case Detection Among Mobile Populations and Migrant Workers in Myanmar: Comparison of 3 Service Delivery Approaches. 2018
  • Shannon Takala-Harrison,a Christopher G. Jacob, et al. Independent Emergence of Artemisinin Resistance Mutations Among Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia. 2014.
  • Imwong M, Hien TT, et al. Spread of a single multidrug resistant malaria parasite lineage (PfPailin) to Vietnam. 2017.
  • Richard J Maude,corresponding author Chea Nguon, et al. Spatial and temporal epidemiology of clinical malaria in Cambodia 2004–2013. 2014.
  • Imwong M, Nguyen TN, et al.The epidemiology of subclinical malaria infections in South-East Asia: findings from cross-sectional surveys in Thailand–Myanmar border areas, Cambodia, and Vietnam. 2015.
  • Hannah Edwards, Sara E. Canavati, et al. Novel Cross-Border Approaches to Optimise Identification of Asymptomatic and Artemisinin-Resistant Plasmodium Infection in Mobile Populations Crossing Cambodian Borders. 2015.

Pilot Mapping, Real Time Reporting and Responding in High Risk Malaria Areas of Viet Nam

Viet Nam is among the Asia-Pacific countries focusing on eliminating malaria. Mapping helps target malaria interventions. Nguyen Xuan Thang and colleagues (James O’Donnell, Vashti Irani, Leanna Surrao, Ricardo Ataide, Josh Tram, An Le, Sara Canavati, Tran Thanh Duong, Tran Quoc Tuy, Gary Dahl, Gerard Kelly, Jack Richards, Ngo Duc Thang) presented their pilot mapping efforts at the Malaria World Congress in Melbourne recently and below share their experiences with us.

Viet Nam is focused on eliminating malaria by 2030. Viet Nam saw a 73% reduction in cases between 2013 and 2017 (NIMPE data), yet border provinces still have a high burden of malaria. However, some provinces still have a high burden of malaria. To achieve malaria elimination, it is essential to deploy targeted interventions in these locations.

Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) can be used by National Malaria programs to integrate geographic elements in the management of malaria cases and facilitate targeted malaria interventions in these high-risk settings.

The objective of this work was to pilot a SDSS system for Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong Provinces in Viet Nam to facilitate ongoing surveillance and targeted malaria, as part of the Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative (RAI). This objective was achieved by:

  • Collecting data with cell phones

    Collecting baseline GIS data at household level and environmental characteristics associated with the area;

  • Establishing a routine data collection system that will be reported by mobile medical staff by mobile phone;
  • Integrating this data to form a spatial decision support system (SDSS);
  • Using the SDSS system for direct reporting to malaria control programs that provided strategic solutions for the prevention of disease spread and the elimination of malaria

Sample cell phone data screens

In Phase 1, a household and mapping survey was conducted in collaboration with commune, district and village health workers. Epicollect5 software was used on smartphones with GPS functionality to record mapping information (latitude and longitude) and general information on household members. During Phase 1, 10,506 households were surveyed and data was aggregated in a custom Geographic Information System (GIS) database.

The majority of the surveyed individuals were of the Kinh ethnicity (19,282; 35.4%), followed by M’Nong (4,669; 8.6%) and Mong (3,359; 6.2%). Data related to malaria among mobile populations were included in the GIS as a means to identify and describe groups at high risk for malaria e.g. forest-goers. The survey data were reviewed, cleaned and matched using the ID numbers, then aggregated with relevant administrative boundary data and linked on ArcGIS 10.2 software. This database is located in a custom GIS system and can be visualized as a spatial transmission model to support appropriate decision-making

Dots representing households

Phase 2 focused on ongoing surveillance with rapid case reporting and responses. Malaria cases diagnosed at public and local health facilities were entered into the system by Commune Health Officials. Village Health Workers were immediately notified and went to the patient’s home to undertake case investigation including further household mapping and active case detection activities. The Viet Nam National Institute of Malariology was also notified, and organized local officials to carry out an investigation into the sources of transmission (i.e. ‘hotspots’) and to implement timely interventions.

Dots representing cases

When the cases were identified, Village Health Workers went to the patient’s home to undertake operational procedures including geographic exploration, household mapping to identify the location and to identify the list of affected households. They also collected this data on EpiCollect5. Collated information on cases, transmission point, zoning of the target villages allowed for early detection of malaria outbreaks. The National Institute of Malariology can also issue guidelines when the hotspots are identified and when disease outbreaks occur

These activities are ongoing. In conclusion, a custom GIS database was developed using a household survey in Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong province of Viet Nam. Malaria cases were mapped to identify hotspots of malaria transmission and enable further active case detection and targeted interventions. This established GIS database aims to support routine case notification and to enhance the role of surveillance for active case detection and responses to achieve malaria elimination.

The authors are affiliated with the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology, Entomology (NIMPE), Viet Nam; Burnet Institute, Australia; and Health Poverty Action, UK. Contact:

Global Civil Society for Malaria Elimination (CS4ME)

CS4ME was created during the Global Malaria Civil Society Strategising and Advocacy Pre-Meeting jointly convened by the Global Fund Advocates Network Asia-Pacific (GFAN AP) and APCASO held on 29th and 30th June 2018, prior to the First Malaria Wor1d Congress in Melbourne, Australia, with the support of the Malaria World Congress, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Burnet Institute. An interim working group mode up of individuals that attended the Pre-Meeting was established to coordinate, recommend processes and mechanisms, identify resources and support necessary for CS4ME going forward.  For more Information please contact Ms Olivia Ngou Zongue <> of the Interim Working Group of CS4ME for further information. The Declaration arising from their meeting if provided below.


Firm in the belief that empowered community and civil society are game-changers in health responses,  we, representatives of national, regional and global malaria communities and civil society attending the First Malaria World Congress, have come together and formed the Global Civil Society for Malaria Elimination (CS4ME) as part of our commitment to joint advocacy for more effective, sustainable, people-centred, rights-based, equitable, and inclusive malaria programmes and Interventions.

At a time when the world has the resources and tools to prevent and treat malaria, it is unconscionable how people – mainly from impoverished, vulnerable and underserved communities – continue to die from the disease. While we commend the efforts of governments and the international community that brought the world closer to malaria elimination, we call for greater accountability, political will and action, resource investments, and sense of urgency to eliminate the disease.

CS4ME makes the following call to the governments of implementing countries, donor countries and other duty bearers:


Significant progress has been attained during the past 10 years to reduce the burden of malaria throughout the world and in working towards achieving malaria elimination. As countries enter into the elimination phase, we see again and again the epidemic concentrating among the most marginalised, remote, and disenfranchised communities. In South East Asia, the concentration of malaria among communities barred from accessing quality and affordable health services has accelerated the emergence of drug resistance that now threatens the wor1d at large. Everywhere, the last mile of elimination becomes a matter of access to health for impoverished and marginalised communities, in particular, refugees, ethnic minorities, indigenous communities, migrant and mobile populations – with many of the risks faced by these groups compounded further amongst women and girls.

Including the most local, represents a strategic investment contributing to appropriate, effective service delivery and people-driven surveillance and response.
We call on national governments, international institutions, bilateral and multilateral donors to prioritise and increase funding allocations for community-driven community and civil society initiatives. We request that specific funding streams be made available to community groups, and their access supported through peer-to-peer technical assistance.

Furthermore, we request that key performance indicators that enable accountability for bringing malaria services to the underserved be developed and implemented.


As surveillance becomes an essential pillar for malaria elimination, the need for timely and robust data is increasingly critical. Essential evidence includes routine data, qualitative and quantitative research, as well as experience, lessons learned and the voices from affected communities. Support is required to build the ability of civil society to generate evidence, as well as to communicate it effectively to ensure that community-generated evidence will be able to influence decisions and result in sustained change.
To eliminate malaria, surveillance requires a response. Communities and civil society are the first responders, and will have the clearest insight Into what responses are effective in their context or on behalf of their constituents.

We demand that communities and civil society organisations be given equitable access to data and other information that can inform field-level response. We call for transparent information systems and multi-directional information flows in order to enable dialogue, and inform decisions at all levels. We urge the building up of surveillance systems that involve communities as analysts, advisors, decision-makers and responders.

We, malaria communities and civil society, offer our support, expertise, and lived experiences In contributing towards our shared vision of malaria elimination. We are fully committed to working alongside other stakeholders to build stronger, more inclusive and effective partnerships and sustainable responses towards elimination of malaria in this lifetime.

Mapping to Integrate Filariasis and Onchocerciasis Control with Malaria Interventions

William R Brieger ( and Gilbert Burnham ( of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health presented ideas about mapping and integration of neglected tropical diseases and malaria interventions at the Malaria World Congress, Melbourne, Australia, July 2018

Overview: Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and Malaria share a common vector in sub-Saharan Africa. Mass Drug Administration (MDA) is a strategy that is common to both diseases. Where the diseases overlap there is the potential opportunity to coordinate both vector control and MDA to achieve synergy in program results. The example of Burkina Faso, supplemented with information from Ghana, serves as an example of what could be integrated and what actually happens.

Background: Thirty years ago then veterinary drug, ivermectin, was found effective in controlling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), specifically two human filarial diseases: onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis (LF). The drug manufacturer donates 300 million treatments annually to eliminate both diseases. Since then, annual community based mass drug administration (MDA) efforts have resulted in millions of treatments in endemic countries and great progress has been made toward elimination of transmission. Through observation and experimentation, ivermectin was found to kill malaria carrying mosquitoes when they bite people who have taken ivermectin making it a useful tool for vector control.

CHWs in Burkina Faso demonstrating how to measure height to determine ivermectin dosage

Community Health Workers’ Role: Current research is examining how dosing and timing of treatments may impact national malaria vector control efforts. Comparing maps between malaria and LF can be a starting point for adapting ivermectin MDAs for malaria vector control. Burkina Faso MDAs are operationalized by community health workers (CHWs) who are part of a national program that provides treatment for common illnesses and also conducts village level onchocerciasis and LF MDAs. Vector Control with Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets In most of rural Africa, malaria and lymphatic Filariasis are co-endemic and share the same anopheles mosquito vector.

However, that does not mean that there is a coordinated effort to plan distribution of LLINs despite the fact that the intervention meets the needs of both disease control efforts. The current NTD programs in Burkina Faso and Ghana focus on Preventive Chemotherapy (PCT) delivered through Mass Drug Administration (MDA). Vector Control is seen as essential in areas co-endemic with LF, Loa loa and Malaria – mapping helps identify priority areas for vector control.

Vector Control by Chance: In Ghana, the NTD/LF elimination program was unaware of the LLIN coverage data available in the NMCP housed in an adjacent building. This illustrates the lack of collaboration between the two programs. Thus where — and if — vector control benefits the reduction of both diseases, it is often by chance where LF is concerned.  The International NGO, The Carter Center, may be the only one that includes vector control as part of its programming for both malaria and LF in Nigeria. This practice should be replicated by other partners and country programs where possible.

Mass Drug Administration: MDA is the major strategy for control of five PCT diseases in the NTD program, and LF is one of those. Currently MDA anti-malarial drugs has been considered in limited situations in countries where there are areas that have very low transmission In the future countries may consider research that shows mosquitocidal effects of Onchocerciasis and LF MDAs with ivermectin. Otherwise for malaria, a special intervention called Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) is used in an MDA-like approach to reach young children in the African Sahel during high transmission months. In both cases, existing cadres of (usually volunteer) community health workers are the front line providers of MDA.

Burkina Faso LF Map from ESPEN: Mapping shows 10 of 70 health districts are currently doing LF MDA, though all have done it. Thus CHWs in all districts are experienced in ivermectin MDA. The malaria map shows that two-thirds of districts have a malaria incidence of 400/1000 or more while 14 have lower incidence. There is an overlap between current LF MDA districts and higher incidence malaria districts Both LF and Malaria Program Coverage can be seen to overlap in [program maps.

Ghana CHWs explain how they conduct MDA

Ghana Experiences: Ghana provides a contrasting example. There five regions in central Ghana that are mostly non-endemic for LF but do have moderate malaria transmission In the south two regions with former LF MDA activity overlap with higher malaria endemicity While four northern regions have lower malaria parasite prevalence, they do have current and recent LF MDAs Community Directed Distributors work with LF MDA in Ghana

Conclusions: Malaria elimination will need a mix of strategies to be successful. Therefore, it is not too early for malaria and NTD program managers, as well as their respective donors, to begin comparing maps to identify possibilities for adapting ivermectin MDAs for malaria vector control. Even though one endemic disease is nearing control or elimination, the infrastructure put in place to accomplish this can be mobilized for other disease control efforts – as long as we map where interventions and resources have been targeted.

Could a Triple-Hit Hypothesis Explain the Pathway from Malaria in Pregnancy to Adverse Infant Neurodevelopmental Outcomes?

Harriet L. S. Lawford 1 , Mary C. Ghazawy 1 , Tessa R. Donaldson 2 , Jack Donaldson 3 , and  Samudragupta Bora 1 shared their researct at the Malaria World Congress in Melbourne this week and present their findings below.

  1. Mothers, Babies and Women’s Health Program, Mater Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Australia
  2. Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  3. Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Each year, millions of pregnant women in malaria-endemic areas are at risk of Plasmodium falciparum infection and the development of placental malaria. Given that malaria in pregnancy is known to contribute to a number of perinatal and infant deaths, this suggests that a significant proportion of live-births may have been exposed to placental malaria in utero. Whilst the neurodevelopmental consequences of cerebral malaria in children have been widely documented, there has been little focus on the impact of placental malaria on infant neurodevelopment.

This research gap is critical to address. Placental malaria is associated with adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth, low birthweight and intrauterine growth restriction, which themselves are well recognized independent risk factors for adverse short-term and long-term neurodevelopment. Furthermore, the additive effects of prenatal environmental and social factors on infant neurodevelopment remain poorly understood. Hence, we propose a Triple-Hit Hypothesis to explain the potential pathway from placental malaria to poor infant neurodevelopmental outcomes.

As per our hypothesis, prenatal socioeconomic, environmental and maternal factors represent the first-hit that influences the risk of developing placental malaria. Poverty and low socioeconomic status are known to increase the likelihood of malaria infection, as well as negatively influence access to and uptake of malaria treatment and prevention tools. The use of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine in resistant areas has been seen to increase placental inflammation and parasitisation, as well as the proportion of resistant parasites, which can lead to more severe placental infection. Lastly, maternal factors, including parity and age, are known to influence the likelihood of placental malaria; the risk of placental malaria among primigravidae is 2-4 times higher than multigravidae, and is seen to increase with decreasing age

The second-hit is represented by the direct activation of maternal immuno-inflammatory factors in response to placental malaria and resultant placental dysfunction. The infiltration of maternal immune and inflammatory factors and placental histopathological changes, such as thickening of the trophoblastic basement membrane, can cause mechanical blockage of materno-foetal oxygen and nutrient exchange, leading to hypoxic conditions and oxidative stress as well as impaired placental vascularisation. Evidence from the literature also suggests activation of complement and a TH1/TH2 imbalance, further contributing to the maternal immunological response.

The severity of placental infection represents the third-hit, wherein the risk of poor neurodevelopment is indirectly impacted by the increased likelihood of adverse birth outcomes associated with infection. Low birthweight, preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction are themselves risk factors for adverse foetal brain development, and adversities include long-term volumetric brain reductions and cognitive, motor and behavioural deficits. Furthermore, research has shown a direct link between maternal inflammation, placental pathology and poor neurological and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Taken together, this involvement of both direct and indirect pathways culminate in a unique foetal phenotype, where not only do we expect to see the adverse birth outcomes commonly associated with placental malaria, but also adversities including increased risks of neurological, cognitive and behavioural deficits that may impact the quality of life in this high-risk population. Validation of the link between placental malaria and adverse neurodevelopment is needed.

For feedback and any further information, please contact:

Progress on Malaria in Pregnancy in 12 PMI Focus Countries

The challenges of implementing programs to control malaria in pregnancy based on experiences with US President’s Malaria Initiative Countries was presented at the Malaria World Congress in Melbourne this week. The team included Katherine Wolf, MCSP/Jhpiego, Marianne Henry, PMI/USAID, Lia Florey, PMI/USAID, Gabrielle Conecker, MCSP/Jhpiego, Betsy Hendrickson, MCSP/Jhpiego, Katherine Lilly, MCSP/Jhpiego, Nicholas
Furtado, GFATM, Maria Petro, GFATM, Susan Youll, PMI/USAID, and Julie Gutman, PMI/CDC, and their findings are shared below.

What is the danger of malaria in pregnancy (MiP)? Each year MIP is responsible for 20% of stillbirths in Sub-Saharan Africa, 100,000 Newborn deaths globally, 11% of newborn deaths in Africa and 10,000 maternal deaths globally. Four interventions are aimed at MIP, Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp), consistent use of insecticide treated nets, effective diagnosis and treatment and low-dose folic acid during antenatal care. IPTp with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine reduces low birth weight by 29%, severe maternal anemia by 38% and neonatal mortality by 31%. What can be done?

  • Scale-up and full coverage of the WHO lifesaving interventions
  • Promote early and regular ANC
  • Preserve SP efficacy by avoiding its use for treating clinical cases of malaria
  • Reserve SP stocks for IPTp at ANC clinics

Methodology for MiP country review: Initial survey took place in 23 PMI countries. PMI resident advisors were surveyed, Qualitative and quantitative responses were collected and Input from NMCP/partners was obtained. Country selection resulted in 12 that were Tiptop-implementing countries, represented Geographic diversity, had varied IPTp coverage, and made clear progress or best practices to share.

Desk review including HMIS and house hold survey data, current studies and recent assessments, Selected interviews with PMI resident advisors, Jhpiego field staff and current/former NMCP staff. Analysis was a Review and clarification of qualitative and qualitative data.

The 12 countries included Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe (see map). The figure shows that none of these attained 80% of 2 doses of IPTp. The current recommendations are for monthly dosages from the 13th week of pregnancy. Often less that half of those receiving IPTp2 also got IPTp3.

Several health systems findings helped explain the IPT results. For Policy & Implementation, Countries reporting strong, coordinated leadership delivered
high IPTp coverage. With Community Engagement, countries reported a diversity of approaches to community health promotion and service delivery.

Concerning Service Delivery, Many countries struggle to implement MiP policies consistently and with quality in the private sector. Commodities were a challenge. Some countries continue to struggle with SP stockouts at facility level, whether ongoing or episodic. Monitoring and Evaluation processes need to catch up. Countries’ routine information systems are transitioning from tracking IPTp2 to IPTp3.
The team offered several Recommendations.

  1. Strengthen consistency of IPTp policies across malaria and reproductive health programs
  2. Scale up of evidence-based country appropriate
    community engagement strategies
  3. Alleviation of supply chain bottlenecks at peripheral level
  4. Inclusion and harmonization of key MIP indicators in routine information systems

For more information please visit, and

This presentation was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of the Cooperative AgreementAID-OAA-A-14-00028. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria In Pregnancy in Tanzania

Intermittent Preventive Treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp) using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) has been a long standing intervention to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from the dangerous effects of malaria in stable transmission settings. Placental malaria deprives the fetus of nutrients leading to low birth weight, still birth and miscarriages. The mother herself suffers anemia and potentially, death.

There had always been a challenge to getting pregnant women to obtain at least two doses of IPTp-SP due to a variety of factors ranging from health system lapses to late antenatal care attendance by mothers. This phenomenon of dropping out of multi-contact interventions is not uncommon and seen equally in programs such as childhood immunization. Therefore when the World Health Organization raised the bar and recommended IPTp starting in the 13th week of pregnancy and monthly thereafter, the challenge of providing three or more doses arose.

The Malaria Indicator Surveys (MIS) and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are an ideal was to trace the progress of malaria intervention over multiple years. With the release of the preliminary results of 2017 Tanzania MIS it is now possible to track this service from over a decade. The Attached chart, using MIS/DHS reports shows that so far Tanzania has not come near achieving 80% coverage of this indicator. While there had been major increases over recent years, reports of IPTp coverage in 2017 show only 56% of recently pregnant women received at least two doses, and only 26% received three or more.

It should be noted that countries are beginning to stratify their interventions according  to available transmission data. Therefore as noted in the US President’s Malaria Initiative Malaria Operations Plan for 2018, Zanzibar where transmission is low, has stopped IPTp and focuses on prompt and appropriate case management, while the mainland of Tanzania continues with all MIP interventions.  Of interest is the most recent child prevalence map found in the 2017 MIS results that shows other parts of the mainland may also be approaching very low transmission.

Moving forward it will be useful if Tanzania and other endemic countries not only gather epidemiological data to help stratify appropriate interventions (as suggested in the WHO malaria elimination framework), but go further to focus reporting by strata. That said, the health system and community difficulties in achieving high IPTp coverage wherever it is appropriate will remain a challenge if services remain based in static health facilities. Community roles must be explored.

Tanzania Malaria Indicator Survey, ITNs and the View of the Press

Take away messages by the Press sometimes need a bit of clarification. A recent report in The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) expressed that the author was ‘startled’ to mean from the recent Malaria Indicator Suvey (MIS/DHS 2017) that there is high malaria prevalence in regions that also have high insecticide treated bednet ownership and use, implying that nets might not be effective. Actually the preliminary Key Indicators Report showed the overlap between prevalence and nets but did not actually present statistical analysis comparing the two to show whether actual sleeping under the net is associated with prevalence one way or the other.

The reporter quoted Dr William Kisinza, director and chief researcher at the Amani Research Centre of the National Institute for Medical Research as saying “This shows that mosquito bed-nets aren’t the only solution in addressing malaria in Tanzania,” and while this is true, it should not be construed as meaning nets don’t work. Any national malaria strategy uses ITNs in combination with other interventions to have a comprehensive program, including indoor residual spraying, which is also mentioned in the new article.

Dr Kisinza was also quoted as saying, “In Kigoma and Mtwara, bed-nets are used in fishing. There’s a need for behavioural change, if the problem is to be effectively addressed.” This is a real problem but anecdotal. In order to make a clearer point it would be necessary to test the connection between net ownership and use and do a follow-up study to see if in fact those owning but not sleeping under the nets are practicing alternative net usage.

Actually key findings from the preliminary MIS report include the fact that while 78% of households have one ITN, only 45% have at least one for every two people. Hence it is not surprising that only 55% of children under the age of 5 and 62% of pregnant women reported sleeping under a net. These are important service gaps that must be addressed.  Certainly all countries need to monitor the effectiveness of nets and insecticide resistance.

Analysis of net use and malaria parasitaemia among the children can and should be presented to address the reporter’s questions as well as provide a clue to potential insecticide resistance.

Milestones in Eliminating NTDs

WHO lists the milestones towards validation of elimination beginning with stopping the spread of infection through mass drug administration (MDA), implementing MDA in all endemic areas (100% geographical coverage), reducing infection below a threshold at which transmission is not sustainable in all endemic areas and stop MDA, and finally demonstrating sustained reduction of infection below the threshold no earlier than 4 years after stopping MDA. WHO also encourages countries to alleviate suffering by managing morbidity such as lymphedema and preventing disability.

By 2015 the partners providing PCT achieved a milestone. As WHO reports, “Preventive chemotherapy is achievable, as proven by the increasing numbers of people being reached each year. In 2015, over 1.5 billion treatments were administered to almost 1 billion individuals for at least one of the targeted infections: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis soil-transmitted helminthiases and trachoma.

village records of MDA activities

At a low cost – between US$ 0.30 and US$ 0.50 per person treated in most settings – preventive chemotherapy remains the most affordable, cost-effective strategy for controlling and eliminating these diseases.” WHO also explains that to be fully sustainable and to maximize impact, PCT the strategy should be combined and delivered with other interventions, including improving access to safe drinking-water, hygiene, disease management and vector control.

USAID as one of the major NTD partners has spent nearly $700 million since 2006 to build the capacity of 33 endemic countries to plan and implement the MDA strategy for the five PCT diseases. By 2016, “USAID-assisted NTD programs had provided a total of more than 2 billion treatments in the respective countries, representing 935 million persons treated.” Over these years the number of persons living in implementation units (e.g. districts) that no longer require MDA has steadily increased.

Of the 25 countries USAID has supported for LF MDA, “Three had already stopped MDA treatment in 2015 (Togo, Cambodia, and Vietnam), Four were expected to stop MDA in 2017, and 10 more countries by 2020. There were eight countries where the date for stopping treatment was anticipated beyond 2020.” Likewise, “Most countries are on track to reach WHO 2020 elimination goals for trachoma,” and nearly all countries shown anticipate reaching post-MDA surveillance by 2021.

In conclusion, Robollo and Bockarie remind us that, “Interventions against neglected tropical diseases (NTD), including lymphatic filariasis (LF), (were) scaled up dramatically after the signing of the London Declaration (LD) in 2012… but some countries are considered not on track to meet the 2020 target using the recommended preventive chemotherapy and morbidity management strategies.” They believe that LF can be eliminated by 2020 “using cross-sectoral and integrated approaches” that incorporate the synergistic effect of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty reduction and water and sanitation.

Many Neglected Tropical Diseases: What About Eliminating Them?

Testing to see if transmission of lymphatic filariasis has stopped in Burkina Faso

Two things we need to note about the list of 20 diseases that the World Health Organization and partners classify as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). First, diseases like Rabies, Snakebite/envenoming, and Leprosy, while certainly more common in the tropics now, have in the past been global in distribution. Secondly some of the diseases have not been neglected. Onchocerciasis or river blindness has been the focus of a global partnership since 1975, and transmission in the America’s and much of the Sahel in Africa has been halted. Elimination of Dracunculiasis or Guinea Worm has also been the subject of many World Health Assembly Resolutions, and concerted effort has brought the number of cases down from 3.5 million in 1986 to 30 in 2017.  What is more to the point about these diseases is that they affect neglected people, the poor and vulnerable in remote rural areas or urban slums.

Still when we can compare NTD control programs with the rise of major disease control efforts like the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the President’s Emergency Program For AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, World Bank Malaria Booster Program, Global A Vaccine Initiative among others, we can see that the global community has been able to focus major financial resources on a few diseases.  Now with the Sustainable Development Goals, that focus expanded from infectious to Non-Communicable Diseases.  It is natural therefore to fear that tropical health problems that are responsible for major loss of life and economic capacity will not be adequately addressed.

A system of rewards helped identify the last cases in many guinea worm endemic countries

Based on the World Health Organization’s 2020 Roadmap on NTDs, the London Declaration on NTDs recognized a “tremendous opportunity to control or eliminate at least 10 of these devastating diseases by the end of the decade” (i.e. by 2020). These include eradication of Guinea worm disease, and elimination by 2020 of lymphatic filariasis (LF), leprosy, sleeping sickness {human African trypanosomiasis) and blinding trachoma. In addition drug access programmes should help control by 2020 schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis and river blindness (onchocerciasis).

Five of the diseases are notable in that they can either be controlled or eliminated through Mass Drug Administration (MDA) using Preventive Chemo-Therapy (PCT). This effort is aided by drug donation programs at the global level and community based MDA at the local level. Ten companies were signatories to the London Declaration and contributed to drug donation programs to achieve MDA. According to WHO,

Preventive chemotherapy is aimed at optimizing the largescale use of safe, single-dose medicines and offers the best means of reducing the extensive morbidity associated with four helminthiases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases) (6). Additionally, the large-scale administration of azithromycin – a key component of the SAFE strategy for trachoma (that is, lid surgery (S), antibiotics to treat the community pool of infection (A), facial cleanliness (C) and environmental improvement (E)) – is amenable to close coordination and, in future, possibly co-administration with interventions targeted at helminthiases.

Community health workers are the cornerstone of many NTD elimination programs

Targets for the 5 PCT diseases vary. The aim is to eliminate LF and Trachoma by 2020. Although the efforts against onchocerciasis have been running the longest, the refocus from control to elimination meant increasing the geographical scope of intervention, and now elimination may not be feasible until 2025.  With a focus mainly on the school aged and based populations, programs against schistosomiasis and STH talk of control, not elimination, although some endemic countries hope that elimination may be possible if the focus of these programs expands. So far, Togo is the only Sub-Saharan African country to have eliminated LF, and Ghana to have eliminated Trachoma.

Partnerships, funding and drug donations need to be strengthened if more countries are to join the ranks of Togo and Nepal.