Category Archives: Burden

The Challenge of Reducing Malaria in Angola – High Transmission Provinces

Below is an abstract of a poster presentation today at the American Society of tropical Medicine 65th Annual meeting in Atlanta. The presentation was prepared by Jhpiego’s Angola team including Jhony Juarez, Margarita Gurdian-Sandoval, Julio Bonillo, and William R. Brieger. Please join us at the Late-breaker’s session at noon.

CONTEXTmap

  • Angola has three major belts of malaria transmission
  • The north is high transmission and borders on the heavy burden country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • The mid-section of the country is meso-endemic
  • The south is considered low endemic
  • This low endemic area brings Angola into the Southern African Elimination 8 countries.

METHODS: Field visits were made to six northern high burden provinces. Health information system (HIS) data were collected from each provincial health department. Supplementary HIS information was collected from the national malaria control program

northFINDINGS: Data from the six high burden provinces reveal an overall upward trend in confirmed malaria. Cases from 2011, but with a jump of over 130,000 confirmed cases from 2014 to 2015. This occurred despite support from government and major malaria partners over the past decade. Overall cases in the country have risen from 2.73m in 2011 to 3.25m in 2015

NATIONAL MALARIA EFFORTS

  • Between 2012 and 2015 2 million Long Lasting insecticide treated nets were distributed to a population of approximately 5 million in the 6 provinces
  • This exceeded the desired 2 people per net ratio
  • netsIntermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy reached only 59% of women registering for antenatal care in 2015
  • Only 44% and 18% of women received the second and third IPTp doses respectively.

CHALLENGES

  • A dual challenge makes performance of malaria indicators difficult
  • The Global Fund grant had expired for more than a year
  • The oil-based economy also suffered from the major global drop in prices

THE WAY FORWARD

  • Angola requires concerted efforts by government and partners to scale up malaria control interventions
  • Universal coverage targets must be sustained if these high burden northern provinces are to begin seeing a decline in the disease

Attaining and Sustaining – malaria targets

Recent reports on the Global Burden of Disease with a focus on Millennium Development Goal #6 has stressed the improvement in malaria morbidity and mortality indicators since the Abuja Declaration of 2000. In particular, “Global malaria incidence peaked in 2003, with 232 million new cases, subsequently falling by about 29% to 165 million new cases in 2013.”

The improvements are attributed in part to the large increase in funding. The remaining challenge derives in part from the fact that four countries, India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique account for nearly two-thirds of the global case load. Global progress in reducing disease has been achieved despite the fact that in these and many other countries, achievement of 2010 targets for malaria intervention coverage (80%) have lagged. In some cases national surveys have shown some declines in coverage (e.g. Nigeria).

DSCN7147Ghana provides a good example of the challenges. National surveys in 2006, 2008 and 2011 have shown mixed results in the use of insecticide treated nets by children below the age of 5 years.  While the proportion rose from 20% to 39% between the first two surveys, it stayed steady in 2011. A new survey in underway, but as of 2012 there were still areas of the country that needed nets, and we know that nets wear out in between distributions  and need to be replaced through routine services as seen in the photo.

Ghana 2006,8,11 Child sleep under netThe three surveys so far in Ghana paint a mixed picture as seen in the attached graph.  In six of the ten regions, net coverage for young children declined and in four it increased over the period.  This on balance led to the lack of overall improvement.

Thinking back to the reduced burden of disease overall, one can surmise that even some level of malaria intervention can impact on incidence of the disease, but the goal was no mortality for 2015, just one year from now.  If the trend seen in Ghana (which is reflective of other countries) continues, we will pass 2015 without attaining the 2010 coverage targets and still experience an unacceptable malaria disease burden.  Malaria elimination looks farther away each day.

Malaria, Hypertension and Pregnancy: where communicable and non-communicable diseases may cross paths

WorldHypertensionDay_SmallTomorrow, May 17th, is World Hypertension Day.  Much attention of recent has been focused on the importance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension in terms of global burden, and concerns have been expressed that communicable or infectious diseases (CDs) may become neglected, although they still cause huge levels of morbidity and mortality. What people may not realize is that there are connections between the NCDs and the CDs.

World Hypertension DayBetter research is needed to document the relationships and influences of one on the other, but some preliminary work has been done with pregnant women who are susceptible to both hypertension and malaria.  What does that combination do?

What the existing literature implies so far is that malaria in pregnancy may in fact be associated with hypertension in some cases and that both conditions can lead to intra-uterine growth retardation and low birth weight.  Also boys who were born to mothers with malaria in pregnancy had excess hypertension in their first year of life and girls had higher SBP.

Hypertension malaria LBWThe role of malaria in pregnancy in low birth weight is well established. Furthermore Lackland and colleagues shared that, “there have been numerous ecologic and observational studies that identified significant inverse associations of birth weight with blood pressure levels at various ages in later life.” A graphic posted to the right shows potential malaria and hypertension interactions. These are areas that deserve more observation, documentation and research.

Overall we can see that there is not a real dichotomy between CDs and NCDs, and both interact in the health of individuals, families and communities.

Rural Health and Malaria, a South Africa Example

South Africa’s Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) has released a report or fact sheet on rural health in South African provinces. Of interest is the overlap of rural problems and malaria endemicity.  Three Provinces that border Mozambique are also endemic for malaria – from north to south: Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN).

South Africa Provinces and MalariaSeven of the 10 poorest districts in the country fall in two of these endemic provinces, Limpopo and KZN. The two districts with the highest HIV prevalence are in Mpumalanga and KZN, and those two provinces themselves have the highest HIV prevalence among all the provinces.

The fact sheet also reports that, “Poor rural households in a Limpopo District spend up to 80% of monthly income on health expenditure, travel costs being a significant contributor.”

Limpopo and Mpumalanga are among the four provinces with the lowest distribution (or highest shortages) of human resources for health. Concerning maternal mortality, the fact sheet notes that, “Each year an estimated 4300 mothers die. KZN most affected.”

While one cannot say the exact role malaria plays in rural poverty and rural health disparities, it is important to note that interventions to control and eliminate the disease must have a strong rural focus. Hopefully there will be economic benefits to such interventions.

900 Days Left to Make a Big Difference in Malaria as African Ministers of Health Learn in Abuja

A Breakfast Briefing was given to African Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs on 13th July 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria to review progress in Africa’s fight against malaria and to announce a new initiative to support 10 high-burden countries as part of the Special African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

final-eng-invite-abuja-mohs-malaria-session-09-07-2013-sm.jpgDr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director, Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership in her welcome address) acknowledged the high level of commitment of partners and the high level of leadership from endemic countries over the past decade in the fight against malaria resulting on 44 countries seeing a > 50% reduction in malaria cases, but we cannot rest in the face of financial and technical challenges.

Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the African Union Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs in his opening remarks reminded us that external funding has never been guaranteed, and as it is ebbing we need to scale up domestic financial support. The AU will work with all stakeholders to help close the $4b gap and not let gains reverse. In order not to lose momentum innovative domestic funding models are needed.

Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) delivered the ALMA Scorecard update. She noted that the scorecard provides a roadmap and pushes countries to demonstrate results. Very positive results in terms of adopting policies that oppose artemisinin monotherapies and promote community case management are the norm now.

art-mono-banned.jpgThe challenge is the low scores on public sector management and effective use of existing resources. Efficiency gains could deliver up to 40% more services with available money. Continued scorecard success also depends on global attention remaining focused on Africa as post MDG goals are being set.

Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme (WHO-GMP) introduced the new Larval Source Management (LSM) Manual. He told the gathering that the new LSM Manual was a result of advocacy by Nigeria’s Minister for Health.  IRS and ITNs have been success stories, but we need to use all available tools in appropriate manners. LSM has a unique niche where one finds discrete, fixed and definable water bodies as opposed to water in multiple diffuse sources like cattle foot prints on a rutted road that come and go over days.

Larvicides are expensive and labor intensive and need regular monitoring. People need to remember that environmental management is another larva control tool.  With all vector measures “commodities don’t deliver themselves”, but require commitment and action of people at all levels form the national to the community.

Dr Richard Kamwi, Hon. Minister of Health, Namibia, shared that in the 1990s there were 7,000 malaria deaths in his country annually, but only 4 in 2012. Namibia has a mixed strategy especially in the northern border area, and is close to pre-elimination.

Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO-GMP gave a presentation on the Malaria Situation Room concept and explained that even though progress has been made and millions of lives saved, there are over 219 million cases of malaria annually and 660,000 deaths/ A disproportionate burden of malaria deaths even now is in African children under five years of age. We have responsibility for these children.  This burden is focused on 10 countries which account for 70% of malaria cases in Africa and 56% globally.

The Malaria Situation Room will be a way to collate data on funding, intervention, commodities and results.  International partners will continue to support all endemic countries, but malaria elimination will remain elusive unless more coordinated action is aimed at high burden areas.

With only 900 days left before the MDGs reach their target date (end of 2015), we want to anticipate and prevent problems like stock-outs, but wait to hear that there have been no antimalarials in clinics for over a month. We want to be proactive in the face of potential dis-investment to protect 10 years of progress which could be undone in only one malaria transmission season.

dscn3310-sm.jpgDr Alexandre Manguale, Hon. Minister of Health, Mozambique noted that his country is one of the ten in the “situation room.” Mozambique has made great progress in case reduction in the south with support from the cross border Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative. The rest of the country poses special challenges with logistics and weather (flooding). Under these circumstances partners need to coordinate and be flexible in response to gaps and bottlenecks. Information gathered and shared through the situation room will make this possible.

At this point Dr Newman, Dr Nafo-Traoré and Dr Kaloko officially launched the Malaria Situation Room with a ribbon-cutting. Now the work begins to make this ‘room’ a pro-active place to eliminate malaria.

Malaria Funding from the Perspective of International Donors

The recently released 2012 World Malaria Report (WMR) brought in to focus both malaria progress as well as the charges in malaria funding for the 104 malaria-endemic countries. Increased rates of coverage with vector control and malaria case management measures has mean that 274 million cases and 1.1 million deaths have been averted between 2001 and 2010. Unfortunately, The WMR observes that, “The enormous progress achieved appears to have slowed recently. International funding for malaria control has leveled off, and is projected to remain substantially below” projected needs.

We are not talking about small amounts of money or minor contributions to date. The WRM reports that, “The past decade has witnessed tremendous expansion in the financing and implementation of malaria control programmes. International disbursements for malaria control rose steeply from less than US$ 100 million in 2000 to US$ 1.71 billion in 2010 and were estimated to be US$ 1.66 billion in 2011 and US$ 1.84 billion in 2012.” This must be put in context with amounts estimated to be needed to achieve universal coverage (including use) of the major prevention and treatment interventions.

The WMR explains that “The enormous progress achieved appears to have slowed recently.” As noted above international funding for malaria control has leveled off, and “is projected to remain substantially below the US$ 5.1 billion” annually required to achieve and maintain universal coverage of malaria interventions. The Roll Back Malaria Partnership has estimated a higher projected annual need. “Resource requirements for global malaria prevention, control and elimination were estimated in the GMAP (Global Malaria Action Plan) to amount to some US$6.1 billion annually between 2012 and 2015.” This figure includes both program management costs as well as research needed to develop new tools.

The link between funding and coverage is clear in the WMR. The number of ITNs procured in 2012 (66 million) is far lower than in 2011 (92 million) and 2010 (145 million). “With the average useful life of ITNs estimated to be 2 to3 years, ITN coverage is expected to decrease if ITNs are not replaced in 2013.” Recent reports from a regional malaria elimination meeting in Kigali show that replacement time may be even shorter, possibly every 18-24 months based on local use and environmental conditions.

When identifying what is happening in malaria financing, it is important to recognize that there are relatively few direct donors. Major international malaria funders accounting for over 90% of donor financing are Global Fund, US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Department for International Development (DfID), World Bank, and AusAid. Others include bilateral assistance, corporate donors and foundations.

international-funding-sm.jpgThe Global Fund as an entity and as the sum of its country contributors shocked the malaria and global health communities in 2011 when it announced the cancellation of its Round 11 of annual funding. The situation was complex and reflected weak financial pledging and inputs as well as internal management issues. The new funding approach was discussed in the WMR.  There are some uncertainties causing concern for the malaria community.

According to the 2012 WMR, “countries will be grouped by the Global Fund into Country Bands based upon a composite score which is a combination of a country’s GNI and its disease burden. Then there will be a “global disease split (i.e. 52% for HIV, 32% for malaria and16% for TB), until a new formula is determined, the Board,” that will be combined with a split according to Bands.  Finally actual allocation decisions will be made by the country coordination mechanisms (CCMs).  Malaria appears to be in greater direct competition with the other two diseases than what obtained in the past.  How other donors will compensate for any country shortfalls is unknown at present.

One possible implication of bands is that there may be less focus on lower burden countries that are heading toward malaria elimination.  Just because disease burden is low, or becomes low due to effective intervention does not mean that funding is not needed. Continued surveillance and case containment activities are not cheap, and require constant vigilance and sustained efforts since not all of one’s neighboring countries are at the same stage of malaria elimination.

Neonatal Mortality – how does malaria contribute?

Over 40% of child deaths are now due to neonatal mortality, according to National Public Radio (NPR). NPR was commenting on a new article published in PLoS Medicine that examines neonatal death trends between 1990 and 2009. Although reducing child deaths is a key component of the Millennium Development Goals, neonatal mortality rates have actually increased in eight African countries, many of which are endemic for malaria.

Malaria contributes to neonatal mortality in two ways.  First, malaria in pregnancy leads to stillbirth and low birth weight babies who are more prone to death that those of normal weight. In a recent review, Ishaque and colleagues reported that, “The clearest evidence of impact in stillbirth reduction was found for adequate prevention and treatment of syphilis infection and possibly malaria.” Low birth weight can be prevented by using intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy (IPTp).

The second contribution of malaria to neonatal mortality is congenital and neonatal malaria. A recent study in Nigeria has re-emphasized the connection between placental malaria and congenital malaria. Again, IPTp has be found effective in reducing neonatal cases of malaria.

dscn8011-iptp.jpgPublished research from Mozambique confirm that, “IPTp-SP was highly cost-effective for both prevention of maternal malaria and reduction of neonatal mortality in Mozambique.” Ironically, IPTp coverage is one of the key malaria indicators that is lagging as we have passed the RBM 2010 target of 80% coverage with two doses minimum for each pregnant woman in stable transmission areas.

Sufphadoxine-pyrimethamine, the drug used for IPTp, is cheap.  Many women attend antenatal care clinics where IPTp is (or should be given), yet Demographic and Health Survey results show few countries nearing even the 60% coverage mark for two IPTp doses.  There are no excuses in 2011 for pregnant women suffer and their newborns die because of malaria in pregnancy.

Population Growth and Malaria Elimination

A major challenge in successful malaria control programming is correctly estimating the numbers of commodities needed and ensuring their timely delivery.  It is not clear the extent to which this forecasting process accounts for population growth.

Therefore, when the International Herald Tribune (IHT) reports on population growth in the region with the heaviest burden of malaria, we take notice … “What is most striking, though, is the unabated demographic swelling of Africa. Africa’s population has almost doubled between 1975 and 2000, growing from 416 to 811 million; it will add another 75 percent to reach 1.4 billion people in 2025, and presumably another 55 percent to reach the staggering figure of 2.2 billion by mid-century.”

pop3africabig.gifOne wonders whether successful efforts to reach 2015 targets of reduced malaria morbidity and mortality might offset the need for more and more LLINs, ACTs and other commodities? In some countries moving close to elimination, this might be true, but the high burden countries – high because of their large populations and challenging logistics – remain a concern. As the IHT observed, “countries such as Nigeria (230 million in 2025, 390 million in 2050); Ethiopia (110 million and 145 million) and Congo (95 million and 148 million) have since long been identified as the demographic giants of sub-Saharan Africa.”
We already know that universal coverage was not achieved by 31 December 2010 as many endemic countries are still sourcing and distributing nets and other commodities in the hopes of reaching the target in 2011. All the while, population does not remain static.

We also know that there has been strong competition for nets and drugs among endemic countries because of the low number of manufacturers of approved products.  A lesson from the field is that rapid diagnostic test supplies are not close to catching up with supplies of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) medicines, and long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) are not as long lasting as once thought.  Will we be able to get enough nets in 2013-14 to replace those distributed in 2010-11?

So in the short run as population increases, need for malaria control commodities will also increase.  And, one wonders can donor support be counted on?

Ironically even as fertility decreases (though is still high), population grows because of the success in disease control programs and reduced mortality. Also as UNFPA explains, the fact that the majority of people in developing countries are young means that the bulk of the population still has many years of reproductive life ahead, hence population in the foreseeable future will increase even if fertility of lower.
Of course, even when people survive malaria episodes they experience personal costs that holds back the national economy.  The question is whether we can get enough malaria commodities on the scene and in people’s hands before population doubles?

Laboring under the burden of malaria

Today is Labor Day in the United States. This holiday was first celebrated in 1882 with a parade in New York. Many countries observe a similar holiday on May 1st.  Regardless of the date, we should always consider the impact of malaria on the labor force of endemic countries and the subsequent economic impact of the disease.

dscn9118sm.JPGFor example, in Vietnam, Morel and colleagues conclude that, “Whilst government provision of malaria treatment keeps the direct costs relatively low, the overall loss in income due to illness can still be significant given the poverty amongst this population, especially when multiple cases of malaria occur annually within the same household.” The article goes on to document the cost in terms of loss of household productive workdays.

In India, Kumar and colleagues documented that, “The maximum DALYs lost (53.25%) were in the middle productive ages from 15 to 44 years of age, followed by children < 14 years of age (27.68%), and 19% in those > 45 years of age.” They continue by describing efforts to calculate the economic burden of the disease over the past 75 years.

A study of Ethiopian farmers who reported a malaria-like illness “stayed in bed for a mean duration of 7.8 days. Suspected, in this rural population, is a cycle of malnutrition, disease, and activity restriction that begins in childhood. Needed are interventions that reduce the prevalence of childhood stunting and health services that provide adequate prevention and treatment of diseases such as malaria.”

There is hope for workers. O’Meara et al. report, “substantial, lasting declines linked to scale-up of specific interventions,” in southern African countries. Countries in the Horn of Africa have also, “experienced substantial decreases in the burden of malaria linked to the introduction of malaria control measures.” In other countries the switch to ACTs after chloroquine began to fail, “led to immediate improvements; in others malaria reduction seemed to be associated with the scale-up of insecticide-treated bednets and indoor residual spraying.”

Will elimination of malaria lift endemic countries out of poverty? To find out, we need to achieve universal coverage and maintain a high level of intervention.

(see updated Ghana Advocacy News)

Burden of Malaria in Pregnancy

The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium (MIPc) highlighted its ongoing research activities at the recently held 5th Pan-African Malaria Conference in Nairobi.  While results on issues like new malaria treatment and preventive regimens are still in the works, the MIPc did report on preliminary efforts to measure the burden of malaria in pregnancy.

Although international agencies like WHO have given estimates of malaria in pregnancy (MIP) risk, one has not always been sure of how these figures were derived. The MIPc has begun to gather and reanalyze current data to get a better picture of the situation in 2007 since we expect that there will definitely be changes as progress is made toward malaria elimination.

The standard figures have been an annual 50 million pregnant women at risk globally, with 25-30 million in Africa. This may have been nased on live births reported. Other unknowns, according to the MIPc is whether Plasmodium vivax was considered and whether distinctions were made between stable and unstable transmission areas.

Advances made with the Malaria Atlas Project have helped as have UNDP population data for women aged 15-49 years.  There was also the challenge of going beyond live births to counting all pregnancies, whether these terminated early or went to term. MIPc was able to determine that around 13% of pregnancies may end in miscarriage. This is important since malaria itself may lead to miscarriage – live births only would not pick this up.

mip-burden-calculations-by-mipc.jpgThe attached chart shows calculations presented by MIPc. They noted that the African P. falciparum numbers were not much different than have been estimated to date.  more work on these data is underway, but the information presented in Nairobi provides us with the beginnings of a baseline prior to achievement of universal malaria intervention coverage and entry into the malaria elimination phase of intervention.

Another interesting MIP presentation was given by Patrick Duffey during the final plenary session of the MIM conference.  He summarized research that has identified a genetically different form of P. falciparum that infects pregnant women, especially those pregnant for the first time. Some immunity is developed in later pregnancy. This research should contribute to vaccine development.

Dr Duffey also shared information that similar biomarkers for pre-eclampsia are found in women who are pregnant for the first time and have malaria.

The MIM conference has been an important venue for stressing the continued importance of addressing and preventing malaria in pregnancy as a central strategy in our efforts to eliminate malaria overall.

——- see for example …
Muehlenbachs A, Fried M, Lachowitzer J, Mutabingwa TK, Duffy PE. Natural selection of FLT1 alleles and their association with malaria resistance in utero. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 23;105(38):14488-91. Epub 2008 Sep 8.

Avril M, Kulasekara BR, Gose SO, Rowe C, Dahlbäck M, Duffy PE, Fried M, Salanti A, Misher L, Narum DL, Smith JD. Evidence for globally shared, cross-reacting polymorphic epitopes in the pregnancy-associated malaria vaccine candidate VAR2CSA. Infect Immun. 2008 Apr;76(4):1791-800. Epub 2008 Feb 4.

Kabyemela ER, Muehlenbachs A, Fried M, Kurtis JD, Mutabingwa TK, Duffy PE. Maternal peripheral blood level of IL-10 as a marker for inflammatory placental malaria. Malar J. 2008 Jan 29;7:26.