The first Plenary session of the Multilateral Initiative for Malaria’s 5th Pan African Malaria Conference in Nairobi started with Awa Coll-Seck, the Executive Director of Roll Back Malaria, emphasizing the role of malaria research in the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP).Â She explained that the GMAP drew on malaria programming experiences over recent years to outline six main needs and directions for malaria research that will guide us from current control efforts into the future. These needs include –
- continuous research at each stage along the pathway, as well as continuous training of malaria researchers and all levels of malaria programming staff
- knowledge to help focus interventions locally and the burden of disease is changing and varies within and among countries
- how to achieve sustainability that reduces cases, reduces deaths and leads to eradication
- continuous advocacy for research and programming funds to see us through 2040 and beyond and based on evidence generated by program research and evaluation
- greater attention to social and cultural aspects of malaria control including community ownership and community systems strengthening
- maintaining a strong malaria partnership of diverse members including the research community
The importance of operations research (OR) in this process was stressed by Dr Robert Newman, the Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Program. Tying in with Dr Coll-Seck’s call for generating local research, Dr Newman noted the importance of enhancing the local decision making about program choices by using locally generated data.
A major concern expressed during the session was not just the need for more research funds designated specifically for malaria OR.Â Very few countries use the availability of up to 10% of funds in their Global Fund Grants to conduct program relevant OR.
In contrast, Dr Newman reported that programs involved with Neglected Tropical Diseases use between 9-20% of their funds on OR.Â He saw OR as a was to protect the investment of funds in disease control.
Today’s plenary session emphasized that research in malaria is not just an academic exercise. It generates new tools and helps us overcome program implementation bottlenecks.