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.

Malawi Makes Progress and Plans to Defeat Malaria: Directions from the 2017 Malaria Indicator Survey

Malawi has conducted four Malaria Indicator Surveys (MIS), with the most recent being in 2017. Such surveys are crucial tools for [planning and evaluating efforts by national control programs and their partners. Dr. Dan Namarika, Secretary for Health, Ministry of Health in the preface to the 2017 Report sums up the context and progress best, and so first, we have reproduced his narrative below.

Then we look at the example of the insecticide treated net (ITN) data as a way to guide future planning. The MIS format itself has seen improvements with much better color graphics in addition to the traditional tables. Some of these are also shared herein.

According to Dr Namarika, “Malaria is a major public health problem in Malawi where an estimated 4 million cases occur each year. Children under age 5 and pregnant women are most likely to have severe illness. The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with partners, has developed the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan 2017-2022, which articulates the priorities for health sector development in the next 6 years and prioritizes malaria. In line with that emphasis, the National Malaria Control Program has just finished the development of the National Malaria Strategic Plan 2017–2022 with the goal of scaling up malaria interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality by 50% in 2022.

“We strive for progress in achieving prompt, effective malaria treatment. We hope to improve access to early intervention and treatment by expanding village clinic services, using insecticide-treated nets, spraying inside residences, managing the environment, encouraging changes in social behaviour and communication, and preventing malaria in pregnancy. We have set for ourselves high targets for these interventions, and we are confident that we will achieve our strategic goals of halving the incidence of malaria and deaths, as well as reducing the prevalence of malaria and malaria-related anaemia.

“Surveys such as the current Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) are essential measures of progress towards these goals. Without measurement, we can only guess about progress. The 2017 Malawi Malaria Indicator Survey (MMIS) is the country’s fourth nationally representative assessment of the coverage attained by key malaria interventions. Interventions are reported in combination with measures of malaria-related burden and anaemia prevalence testing among children under age 5.

“Overall, there has been considerable progress in scaling up interventions and controlling malaria. We noted a decline in malaria prevalence from 33% in 2014 to 24% in 2017. Insecticide-treated net (ITN) ownership has increased from 70% in 2014 to 82% in 2017.

“Results of the 2017 MIS also show improvement on use of intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy (IPTp) by pregnant women age 15-49. Coverage has increased from 64% for two or more doses in 2014 to 77% in 2017. The percentage of women who took three or more doses of SP/Fansidar for prevention of malaria in pregnancy increased from 13% in 2014 to 43% in 2017.

“In addition, numbers of children receiving a parasitological test and artemisinin-based combination therapy continue to increase.

“These results represent the combined work of numerous partners contributing to the overall scale-up of malaria interventions. I would like to request that all partners make use of the information presented in this report as they implement projects to surmount the challenges depicted here.”

According to PMI, “The 2017-2022 National Malaria Strategic Plan (MSP) builds on the successes achieved and lessons learned during implementation of previous strategic plans.” The example of ITN targets is illustrative and is included in the target, “At least 90% pf the population use one or more malaria preventative interventions.”

So in addition to showing progress with ITNs, the MIS 2017 report also points to gaps that require strengthened intervention. While there has been an increase of household net ownership we can see in the graph that the target for universal coverage of 1 net for 2 people still needs work. We can also see in the graphs that equity remains a challenge with a lower proportion of poorer households owning a net. In addition net ownership is lower in the Central Region of the Country.

We learn from the graphs that having access to a net in the household does not guarantee that people will actually use or sleep under them. The tables show us that the traditionally defined ‘vulnerable groups’ like pregnant women (62.5%) and children below the age of 5 years (67.5%) were more likely to sleep under nets than household members in general (55.4%). The push towards universal coverage stresses that all household members contribute to the health, welfare and wealth of the family and should be protected from malaria.

Now we should Return the comments by Dr Namarika on the value of having MIS data. All endemic countries need to ensure their malaria data are up-to-date to ensure they use this information to keep their strategic plans on track to defeat malaria.

Agriculture and Promotion of Food Security Can Affect Malaria Transmission

The link between malaria and food security in a global context has been made. The influence of malaria on food security was examined. Now the connection between agriculture practices/food security and malaria is pursued below.

A common complaint with programs that distribute insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria is that the nets may be used for other purposes that the intended effort to prevent infected mosquitoes from biting people. All informants interviewed for a study in Western Zambia reported that ITNs are regularly used for fishing and the misuse is widespread. Unsustainable fishing practices, drought and population pressure were mentioned as reasons for fishery decline. The implication was that the use of free ITNs for fishing at least saved the population money in a time of declining fortunes.

A broader review of the ITNs for fishing issue was done through contacting expert witnesses across Africa. Mosquito net fishing (MNF) was found to be a broadly pan-tropical activity, particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors found that, “Perceived drivers of MNF were closely related to poverty, revealing potentially complex and arguably detrimental livelihood and food security implications.”

The mosquito breeding potential of dams cuts across Africa with the number of dams located in malarious areas projected to increase according to Kibret and colleagues. This is because “The population at risk of malaria around existing dams and associated reservoirs, is estimated to increase from 15 million in 2010 to 21-23 million in the 2020s, 25-26 million in the 2050s and 28-29 million in the 2080s.” In addition, areas with dams but without malaria transmission at present, will likely transition to regions of unstable transmission due to climate change.

Likewise, a study in Ethiopia starts with the assertion that, “Dams are important to ensure food security and promote economic development in sub-Saharan Africa,” and then stresses the importance of understanding the consequences of these projects. The researchers found that “the mean monthly malaria incidence and anopheline larval density was generally higher in the dam villages than in the non-dam villages” in all the three dam settings studied. So while dams can increase agricultural production, the authors concluded that, “the presence of dams intensifies malaria transmission in lowland and midland ecological settings.”

Hydro-agricultural projects include dams and irrigation. Human bait mosquito captures volunteers in hydro-agricultural and river bank sites in Cameroon Akono et al. found that mosquito biting rates were higher in hydro-agricultural sites of less urbanized and urban settings than in natural river banks sites. An additional implication is that urban farming, an important component of food security, may influence mosquito and malaria prevalence.

Stoler and colleagues pursued this question of urban agriculture. The odds of self-reported malaria are significantly higher for women in Accra, Ghana who are living within 1 km of urban agriculture compared with all women living near an irrigation source, the association disappearing beyond this critical distance. Likewise in Kumasi, Afrane et al. learned that “adult and larval mosquito abundance and larval survival were high in the irrigated fields in the irrigated (urban) vegetable farm. This therefore, contributed significantly to adult mosquito populations and hence malaria transmission in the city.”

Even agricultural practices in smaller subsistence farms can foster malaria mosquito breeding. Practices found in southwest Nigeria include collection of pools of water in the farms for soaking cassava tubers, digging of trenches, irrigation of farms, and the presence of fish ponds.

Communities can perceive how agricultural practices may contribute to malaria. In Tanzania a fair number of rural respondents associated growing of rice with malaria. They also noted that the need to sleep on their farms at times meant they could not benefit from the mosquito nets hanging back in their house, some hours walk away. The idea of rice cultivation and malaria was tested in central Kenya. Mwangangi and co-researchers found that, “Rice fields and associated canals were the most productive habitat types,” for malaria mosquito breeding. Overall, Mboera et al. found, “evidence that malaria transmission risk varies even between neighbouring villages and is influenced by agro-ecosystems.”

Although we can establish the two-way link or intersection between malaria and food security, we can see that recommended joint or integrated programming may not always be optimal at various levels from the nation to the community. Greater collaboration between health and agricultural ministries and agencies is needed, supported by national policies that see malaria and food production as part of overall national development goals.

Malaria Affects Agriculture and Food Security

The connections between malaria and food security are recognized in various international health and development frameworks. Below is a look at one side of the equation, how malaria in the household affects food security and agricultural production.

Lewnard and colleagues reported that severe food insecurity was associated with increased risk for positive malaria tests among the Batwa pygmies in Uganda. Also malaria control interventions were associated with decreases in child mortality, accounting for the effect of rainfall and food security in central Tanzania. The authors concluded that achieving targets like the MDGs, “requires the contribution of many health interventions, as well as more general improvements in socio-environmental and nutritional conditions,” i.e. an integrated development approach.

A study in Niger hypothesized that Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCT) would have a positive impact on food security. Two different UTC regimens were tested along with a supplemental food package, but ironically the study found no difference in endline food security between arms. The group felt that the results were possibly driven by increased fever/malaria in children, and thus nonfood related drivers of malnutrition, such as disease, may limit the effectiveness of UCTs.

Tusting and co-researchers recognize that agricultural development interventions reduce poverty. They also documented that relative agricultural success was associated with higher socio-economic position, which in turn, was associated with lower human biting rate of malaria-infected mosquitoes. They conclude that “Further interdisplinary research is needed to understand fully the complex pathways between poverty and malaria and to develop strategies for sustainable malaria control.” One possible pathway would be malaria prevention interventions. A study in Ghana reported that, “Children who slept under a bednet were also more likely than those who did not to live in a food secure household.”

Malaria interventions can also affect agricultural productivity. In a Zambian experiment, access to subsidized bed nets was randomly assigned at the community level, and 516 farmers were followed over a one-year farming period. The researchers found “large positive effects of preventative health investment on productivity: among farmers provided with access to free nets, harvest value increased by US$ 76, corresponding to about 14.7% of the average output value.”

Malaria and other endemic diseases affect agricultural productivity, income, and thus quality of housing

Studying the effects of malaria on employees of an oil palm plantation in Papua New Guinea, Pluess and team found that, “on average, an employee sick with malaria was absent for 1.8 days, resulting in a total of 9,313 workdays lost.” This is an indirect influence on a family’s food security.

farming communities often have access only to small medicine shops in the markets

Seeking malaria care can have untoward effects when fees are attached to health services. Johnson and co-researchers report that, “The qualitative data reveal multi-faceted health and socioeconomic effects of user fees, and illustrate that user fees for health care may impact quality of care, health outcomes, food insecurity, and gender inequality, in addition to impacting health care utilization and household finances.”

Malaria can deprive the household of funds needed for food. It can also reduce the ability of the family to work and produce or buy food. Such economic, social and nutritional impacts need to be taken into account in developing intersectoral malaria policies.

Global Frameworks Link Malaria and Food Security

Forty years ago the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care became one of the first global frameworks to consider health in the context of development.[i] Specifically the Declaration stated that, “Economic and social development, based on a New International Economic Order, is of basic importance to the fullest attainment of health for all and to the reduction of the gap between the health status of the developing and developed countries.” Within that, 8 essential services were articulated. One was “Promotion of food supply and proper nutrition,” and another emphasized, “Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases.” This set the stage for future efforts that could place malaria control and food security on an integrated platform.

Twenty years later world leaders came together to establish the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),[ii] an 8-goal framework for tackling the most pressing development challenges. As part of Goal 1, Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, Target 1.C aimed to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, which was thought to be best understood by analysing the different dimensions of food security. One dimension was “Nutritional failures are the consequence not only of insufficient food access but also of poor health conditions and the high incidence of diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.” Thus Goal 6, Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases,” set Target 6.C to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

While recognizing some major successes in the MDGs, the global community again came together to conceptualize a new framework to take off after the MDG process ended in 2015. The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) had 17 components and many sub-goals with the purpose of painting as full a picture of a desired social, economic, environmental, health and political landscape as possible.[iii] Goal 2 focused on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. Unlike Alma Ata and the MDGs, the health goal appears a bit diffuse: Goal 3 was to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Among 13 sub-goals was 3.3 that stated by 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.

A thorough reading of the three mentioned documents/frameworks importantly shows that malaria and food security do not exist in isolation. Their potential interaction and intersection happen in a context of poverty, the environment and climate change.

[i] World Health Organization and UNICEF. Declaration of Alma-Ata, International Conference on Primary Health Care, Alma-Ata, USSR, 6-12 September 1978. http://www.who.int/publications/almaata_declaration_en.pdf

[ii] United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014. New York, 2014. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/publications/mdg-report-2014.html

[iii] United Nations. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A/RES/70/1. sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Multilateral Initiative for Malaria: Posters Range from Prevention to Cost to E-Learning and Beyond

A major feature of all conferences are the poster sessions. These are often overlooked due to timing and placement. Fortunately at the recent 7th Multilateral Initiative for Malaria Conference in Dakar, tea breaks and lunch were made available in the poster tent ensuring more people came to view. Even so some people may have missed the valuable knowledge shared through this medium. We tweeted many of the posters during the event, but below are six posters in more detail.

These range from evaluating a malaria surveillance system to financing systems to sustain malaria drug supplies, including through community pharmacies. The potential of E-Learning for malaria capacity building was explored, and the process pf establishing a national malaria operations research agenda was presented. Several posters examined the seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program in the Sahel of West Africa including one from Mali as seen below.

Please contact the authors for additional information and updates. Readers who presented a poster at MIM are welcome to share their findings with us.

 

Burkina Faso Celebrated World Malaria Day with Pledges to Defeat Malaria

Burkina Faso celebrated World Malaria Day with pledges to Defeat Malaria on 25th April 2018. Dr Ousman Badolo. Technical Director of Jhpiego’s USAID/PMI Supported Improving Malaria Care (IMC) Project describes below the event in the village of Kamboinsin, not far from the capital, Ouagadougou. Ibrahim Sawadogo from IMC provided the photographs.

The day started with a proclamation of malaria day from Burkina Faso’s President, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, to his assembled cabinet and the press. The president recognized that malaria is still a major public health issue in the country, and while deaths are decreasing, the incidence of malaria is not. The President called for a greater commitment of resources by all partners to insure that malaria can be defeated in Burkina Faso by 2030.

Kamboinsin village in Sig-Noghin Health District was the site of further observances organized by the National Malaria Control Program, later that afternoon. This district was chosen because of having among the highest incidence rates for malaria in the region. Many partners set up booths to share their work in malaria with partners and citizens of the district. Included were three research centers (Centre Muraz, CNRFP and IRD), and three USAID programs supported by the President’s Malaria Initiative in Burkina Faso (Procurement and Supply Management [PSM], IMC and VectorLink), among others.

During the program both the Minister for Health and the US Ambassador spoke. The Minister highlighted the main strategies that Burkina Faso is employing to reduce and eliminate malaria including regular use of insecticide treated nets (ITN), seasonal malaria chemoprevention, Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp), Prompt and Appropriate Case Management and other Vector Control Strategies.

The US Ambassador shared a real-life story of a pregnant woman who during her current pregnancy decided to register early for Antenatal Care (ANC) as encouraged by the IMC project. She was able to get several doses of IPTp as required as well as obtain an ITN on her first visit, unlike in her previous pregnancies.

Entertainment was provided by the comedian Hypolythe Wangrawa (alias M’ba Bouanga) who presented a sketch involving his ‘son’ who was not encouraging his wife to attend ANC and receive malaria prevention services. M’ba Bouanga chastised the son and an actor playing a midwife explained to the family the value of attending ANC and preventing malaria. Singers Maria Bissongo, Miss Oueora and Aicha Junior provided the audience with a song that embodied a variety of malaria prevention and care messages.

A highlight of the occasion was recognition of high performing health districts in the country. They were judged on criteria including good management of malaria commodity stocks, reduced case fatality rates, use of diagnostic tests to confirm malaria before treatment and coverage of at least three doses of IPTp. Four districts were given awards, Titao, Thyou, Boussouma and Batie, while Charles de Gaul Pediatric Hospital was also recognized.

One can watch a video of the proclamation by the President on the National Facebook page. More details of the events are found in the following media: Lefaso.net and Paalga Observer.

World Malaria Day in Burkina Faso demonstrated the political will and commitment to “defeat malaria.” More and more national resources will be needed to reach the endline in 2030.

On World Malaria Day the realities of resurgence should energize the call to ‘Beat Malaria’

Dr Pedro Alonso who directed the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Program, has had several opportunities in the past two weeks to remind the global community that complacency on malaria control and elimination must not take hold as there are still over 400,000 deaths globally from malaria each year. At the Seventh Multilateral Initiative for Malaria Conference (MIM) in Dakar, Dr Alonso drew attention to the challenges revealed in the most recent World Malaria Report (WMR). While there have been decreases in deaths, there are places where the number of actual cases is increasing.

Around twenty years ago the course of malaria changed with the holding of the first MIM, also in Dakar and the establishment of the Roll Bank Malaria (RBM) Partnership. These were followed in short order by the Abuja Declaration that set targets for 2010 and embodied political in endemic countries, as well as major funding mechanisms such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. This spurred what has been termed a ‘Golden Decade’ of increasing investment and intervention coverage, leading to decreasing malaria morbidity and mortality. The Millennium Development Goals provided additional impetus to reduce the toll of malaria by 2015.

On Facebook Live yesterday Dr Alonso talked about that ‘Golden Decade.’ There was a 60% decrease in mortality and a 40% decreases in malaria cases. But progress slowing down and we may be stalled at a crossroads. He noted that history show unless accelerate efforts, malaria will come back with a vengeance. Not only is renewed political leadership and funding, particularly from affected countries needed, but we also need new tools. Dr Alonso explained that the existing tools allowed 7m deaths be diverted in that golden decade, but these tools are not perfect. We are reaching limits on these tools such that we need R&D for tools to enable quantum leap forward. Even old tools like nets are threatened by insecticide resistance, and research on alternative safe insecticides is crucial.

Dr Alonso at MIM pointed to the worrying fact that investment in malaria overall peaked in 2013. Investment by endemic countries themselves has remained stable throughout and never gone reached $1 billion despite advocacy and leadership groups like the Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance. The 2017 WMR shows that while 16 countries achieved a greater that 20% reduction in malaria cases, 25 saw a greater that 20% increase in cases. The outnumbering of decreasing countries by increasing was 4 to 8 in Africa, the region with the highest burden of the disease. Overall 24 African countries saw increases in cases between 2015 and 2016 versus 5 that saw a decrease. A review of the Demographic and Health and the Malaria Information Surveys in recent years show that most countries continue to have difficulty coming close to the Abuja 2010 targets for Insecticide treated net (ITN) use, prompt and appropriate malaria case management and intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp).

The coverage gap is real. The WMR shows that while there have been small but steady increase in 3 doses of IPTp, coverage of the first dose has leveled off. Also while ownership of a net by households has increased, less than half of households have at least one net for every two residents.

In contrast a new form of IPT – seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) for children in the Sahel countries has taken off with over 90% of children receiving at least one of the monthly doses during the high transmission season. Community case management is taking off as is increased use of rapid diagnostic testing. Increased access to care may explain how in spite of increased cases, deaths can be reduced. This situation could change rapidly if drug resistance spreads.

While some international partners are stepping up, we are far short of the investment needed. The Gates Foundation is pledging more for research and development to address the need for new tools as mentioned by Dr Alonso. A big challenge is adequate funding to sustain the implementation of both existing tools and the new ones when they come online. Even in the context of a malaria elimination framework, WHO stresses the need to maintain appropriate levels of intervention with case management, ITNs and other measures regardless of the stage of elimination at which a country or sub-strata of a country is focused.

Twenty years after the formation of RBM and 70 years after the foundation of WHO, the children, families and communities of endemic countries are certainly ready to beat malaria. The question is whether the national and global partners are equally ready.

MIM – Fostering the next generation of malaria researchers in Africa – gaps and emerging opportunities

Dr Olumide Ogundahunsi of the of the Unicef-UNDP-World Bank-WHO Tropical Disease Research Program (best known as TDR) helped organize a symposium on the history and future goals of the Multilateral Initiative for Malaria (MIM) at the current MIM Conference. He describes the symposium, efforts to launch a MIM Society, and related issues below.

Dakar is hosting the 7th Multilateral Initiative for Malaria (MIM) Pan Africa Malaria Conference 21 years after the first such gathering of malaria researchers in the city in 1997. At that time Northern research and development organizations including NIH/Fogarty, WHO/TDR, Wellcome Trust, SIDA and others sought to take measure of the malaria research experience and needs of African scientists and scientific institutions. It was challenging at that time to find strong and representative core of malaria researchers across the continent. Arising from that first conference was the development of MIM and a plan for building the capacity of African researchers through a series of malaria research grants that included both postgraduate training as well as support for applying the acquired skills in undertaking malaria research.

Dr John Reeder, Director of TDR and Prof Fred Binka

Between 1997 and 2007 MIM supported Fifty six (56) research capacity strengthening (RCS) grants through the Special programme for research and training in Tropical diseases (TDR) for an aggregate amount of $12.9 million from 1997 to 2007.  The grants responded to basic gaps in capacity, research tools/commodities/supplies and communication. The latter reflected a major need for researchers to connect with the global malaria research community to learn and share.

These grants under the aegis of the MIM/TDR task force on Malaria RCS addressed the following broad research themes: Pathogenesis and Immunology of Malaria, malaria vector control (including insecticide resistance), Chemotherapy and antimalarial drug resistance, research and development of new tools from natural products, and research to facilitate malaria control interventions. At the Symposium Representatives of the 56 MIM grantees from West, Central, East and Southern Africa shared experiences during and after completion of their MIM grant. These included –

  • Professor Francine Ntoumi, Malaria immunology and pathogenesis research capacity in Central Africa, University Marien Ngouabi, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
  • Professor Lizette Koekemoer, Malaria vector research capacity in Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Professor Abdoulaye Djimde, Malaria treatment and antimalarial drug resistance in West Africa., Univerity of Bamako, Bamako, Mali
  • Professor Wilfred Mbacham, Malaria treatment and antimalarial drug resistance in Central Africa, Univeristy of Younde 1, Younde, Cameroon
  • Professor Kwadwo Koram, Malaria epidemiology research capacity for elimination and control in Africa, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and University of Ghana,  Accra, Ghana

These speakers demonstrate MIM’s and their own specific achievements in following areas:

  • -Capacity built with infrastructure, technology transfer, skill acquisition and graduate students and postdocs trained (including their current status/subsequent contribution to malaria research and (or) control)
  • -Resources/other grants leveraged
  • -Collaborations established and sustained
  • -Contributions to national and regional malaria research capacity, control and elimination.

MIM ‘alumni’ speaking at the Symposium

Since that time those receiving the MIM RCS were able to benefit from further TDR and other malaria research grants and in the process have themselves helped develop new generations of malaria scientists in the universities and institutes where they work. MIM has continued to address the original research gaps. The holding of six subsequent Pan-African conferences.  Grants were also provided for establishing satellite communications systems at three institutions where grantees were based.

Participants in this process who attended the current conference (MIM2018) were able to help achieve on of the objectives of the symposium that is “highlighting the importance of continuous investment in training and monitoring of young African scientists.” The symposium also articulated the unmet and emerging gaps in research capacity of particular relevance to malaria control and elimination.

Visiting the TDR booth to discuss MIM experiences and research opportunities

MIM started and continues as a partnership among Northern and African research organizations with a rotating secretariat. For the past 10 years the MIM secretariat has been based in Africa, and most recently in Cameroon in the Biotechnology Centre of the University of Yaoundé.

Going forward the MIM is evolving into the MIM Society, a broad-based society which will focus among others on organizing regular MIM conferences, promoting research capacity strengthening and foster and unite the different initiative on the continent and worldwide. The MIM society will also invigorate the young African scientist to emerge as outstanding researchers and leaders with ground breaking innovation in science and its applications to development.

The MIM Society will be a global non-profit organization whose mission is to unite all human resources, young and experienced, working on malaria (from researchers over implementers, teachers, producers, funders, policy makers) to strengthen and sustain the capacity of malaria affected countries and to be an umbrella organization for all malaria related initiatives. The MIM Society through its members will guarantee capacity building goals for malaria researchers set by MIM 20 years ago will be carried forward for another 20 years and more.