Category Archives: Children

African Children and COVID-19

Until recently it was thought that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was less severe in children. Now as more cases can be studied, that prognosis is less likely to be true. The number of cases overall in Africa is still lower than the rest of the world, with 36,857 cases reported by the Africa CDC as of 29 April 2020, compared to over 3 million globally. One assumes out of this that the number of child cases would also be lower, but there is worry about other indirect effects of the pandemic on children.

Initial beliefs that the young would be less impacted by COVID-19 may have led to complacency. For example, the Atlantic reports that, “Africa will enjoy the advantage of youth. COVID-19 kills mostly the old, and Africans are relatively young, with a median age of 18.9. (The median age in the United States and China is 38.) That means, in effect, that about half of Africans who get COVID-19 will have a low risk of death.” The reality is turning out much different.

First from the medical standpoint, VOA reports that, “Doctors in Britain, Italy, Portugal and Spain are exploring a possible link between a severe inflammatory disease in children and the coronavirus. A growing number of children of various ages in several European countries have been admitted to hospitals with high fever and heart issues. Some also have suffered from gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea.” There is not enough information disaggregated by age to tell us how coronavirus is affecting children in Africa.

Secondly, UNICEF tells us that, “in any crisis, the young and the most vulnerable suffer disproportionately,” as children suffer from “collateral damage.” Lockdowns reduce access to essential services such as routine immunization, nutritional supplementation and malaria treatment and prevention programs and thus increase morbidity and mortality among children.

Nature published on 7th April that measles has currently, “killed more than 6,500 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is still spreading through the country.” Unfortunately “23 countries have suspended measles vaccination campaigns as they cope with SARS-CoV-2.”

There are groups of children that are especially vulnerable. In Kenya. “Street children are having a rough time during the curfew. Food and water are a real problem as hotels and eating places where they would normally get food have closed down. Movement is restricted,” according to the Guardian. The article goes further to share the concern that, “the virus could drive homeless children back to families where they are at risk of abuse.” Abuse of children during stressful times goes affects many confined to homes with out-of-work parents, not just street children.

We cannot afford to lose more children to direct and collateral mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads in Africa. We need to begin with better data to tell us about infection and effects on children. Nigeria has done some reporting on age.  We need to ensure that all countries collect data on children and COVID-19 and also maintain routine child survival services.

Preventing Malaria in Mozambique: the 2018 Malaria Indicator Survey Summarized

The Demographic and Health Survey Program has recently released the 2018 Malaria Indicator Survey for Mozambique. Below is a summary of some of the key findings. These focus on access and use of insecticide-treated nets, intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy and case management

While “82% of Mozambican households have at least one ITN, and half have at least one ITN for each two people,” these achievements do not reach universal coverage targets. That said, the ownership of at least one net by a household did increase from 51% in 2011 to the recent 82%. Likewise 23% of households met the universal coverage target of one net per two people in a household in 2011 compared to 51% in 2018. The pace of progress may appear good, but this must be seen in light of lack of growth in donor funding and greater calls for countries to assume more financial responsibility for disease control.

Of interest is the fact that net ownership is spread somewhat evenly over the economic class quintiles. Ideally we would want to see better ownership figures for the lower quintiles.

Households obtained their nets from three major sources. “Most ITNs (87%) were obtained in mass distribution campaigns, 4% in prenatal consultations (PNC) and 6% are purchased in stores or markets.” While the proportion getting their nets through PNC may roughly reflect the proportion of the population who are pregnant at a given time, the survey is not specifically a snapshot of this population in real time. Thus, one could question whether distribution of ITNs through routine health services is fully functioning.

Since it was noted that only half of households have the ideal number of ITNs to reach universal coverage of their members, it is not surprising that only, “69% of the population of households’ family members have access to an ITN. This means that 7 in every 10 people could sleep under an ITN if each ITN in a household were used by a maximum of two people.” On the positive side, this represents an approximate doubling of use of ITNs since 2011.

The survey further notes that those segments of the population traditionally viewed as “vulnerable” fared a bit better: “73% of children under 5 years and 76% of pregnant women slept under an ITN the night before investigation.” This too, represents a doubling from 2011. There is also geographical variation where it appears that the more rural provinces have higher rates of use.

It would appear that IRS is not a major component of malaria control. Household coverage with indoor residual spray “decreased from 19% in 2011 to 11% in 2015, and then increased to 16% in 2018.” Urban coverage (23%) of IRS in the twelve months prior to the survey is twice as high as the percentage in rural areas (12%).

Although still not meeting targets, Mozambique has seen major progress in providing IPTp for pregnant women. Over the period from 2011 to 2018 the proportion of pregnant women receiving even one dose rose from 37% to 85%. Since WHO has set targets for at least 3 monthly doses from the 13th week of pregnancy, Mozambique’s coverage of the third dose increased from 10% to 41% with wide variation among provinces.

UNICEF shared data from 2015 to show that 51% of pregnant women in Mozambique attended 4 PNC/ANC visits, implying that there are missed opportunities for achieving at least 3 doses of IPTp. Also, since more women are now getting the first dose of IPTp, hopefully more can also get an ITN at PNC.

These national surveys (MIS, DHS) are invaluable for assessing progress and planning what interventions need to be strengthened where and among whom. They also show that progress is slow, reinforcing global concerns that malaria elimination will still be a challenge by 2050.

Efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum infection in Rwanda, 2018

The Efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum infection in Rwanda, 2018 was investigated by Aline Uwimana, Noella Umulisa, Eric S. Halsey, Meera Venkatesan, Tharcisse Munyaneza, Rafiki Madjid Habimana, Ryan Sandford, Leah Moriarty, Emily Piercefield, Zhiyong Zhou, Samaly Souza, Naomi Lucchi, Daniel Ngamije, Jean-Louis N Mangala, William Brieger, Venkatachalam Udhayakumar, Aimable Mbituyumuremyi.* The results were presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and are seen below.

Background: In Rwanda, there were 4,195,013 confirmed malaria cases and 341 malaria-related deaths in 2018[1]. Regular monitoring of artemisinin-based combination therapy efficacy is important to assess drug efficacy and for timely detection of the emergence of antimalarial drug resistance. In Rwanda, national policy is to routinely monitor the first-line antimalarial per World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines[2] The most recent therapeutic efficacy results in Rwanda showed an efficacy of the first-line antimalarial, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), of >97% in Masaka and Ruhuha in a study conducted from 2013 to 2015[3]

Methods: This was an Efficacy trial based on the standard WHO in vivo protocol[2]. Three sites (see map) were selected in Rwanda. Artemether-lumefantrine (AL) was given twice daily; each dose given under observation for 3 days. Participants were treated with AL and followed for 28 days from March 2018 to December 2018.

PCR correction, differentiating recrudescence from reinfection in late treatment failure samples, was performed using genotyping of seven neutral microsatellites. Microsatellite data were analyzed using a previously published algorithm that assigns each late treatment failure a posterior probability of recrudescence[4]

  • Primary Endpoint: 28-day PCR-corrected efficacy
  • Secondary Endpoints: 28-day uncorrected efficacy, day 3 parasitemia

PCR-corrected and uncorrected efficacies are seen to the left.  Kaplan Meier Curves are presented. Uncorrected (top) and PCR-corrected (bottom) survival functions for time until failure for a 2018 therapeutic efficacy study using artemether-lumefantrine in three Rwandan study sites; ACPR: adequate clinical and parasitological response. Day 3 Parasitemia was identified. Two sites, Masaka and Rukara, had > 10% of subjects with parasites detectable on day 3, a WHO criteria for suspected artemisinin resistance.

With PCR-corrected efficacies greater than the 90% cut-off recommended by WHO, AL remains an effective antimalarial to treat uncomplicated P. falciparum in Rwanda
More than 10% of subjects had day 3 parasitemia at two sites; the relationship with this finding and k13 mutations observed in this study was presented in ASTMH poster LB-5295 (Friday, November 22, 2019).

Periodic antimalarial efficacy monitoring in Rwanda should be maintained, and future studies should incorporate additional methods to assess parasite clearance times and presence of molecular markers of resistance. WHO algorithm indicating that, for this study, even with suspected artemisinin resistance in Rwanda, no change in ACT treatment policy is warranted at this time.

References

  1. Rwanda Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases Division, Rwanda Biomedical Center, HMIS data, 2018.
  2. WHO, Methods for Surveillance of Antimalarial Drug Efficacy, 2009.
  3. Uwimana A, Efficacy of artemether–lumefantrine versus dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria among children in Rwanda: an open-label, randomized controlled trial, Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg; doi:10.1093/trstmh/trz009; 2019.
  4. Plucinski MM, Morton L, Bushman M, Dimbu PR, Udhayakumar V. Robust algorithm for systematic classification of malaria late treatment failures as recrudescence or reinfection using microsatellite genotyping. Antimicrob Agents Chemother;59:6096–100; 2015.

Contact Information: Aline Uwimana, MD: aline.uwimana@rbc.gov.rw and Eric Halsey, MD: ycw8@cdc.gov

*Affiliations: Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases Division, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Kigali, Rwanda; Maternal and Child Survival Program/JHPIEGO, Baltimore MD, USA; The US President’s Malaria Initiative, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Malaria Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; US President’s Malaria Initiative, Washington DC, USA; National Reference Laboratory, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Kigali, Rwanda; US Peace Corps, Kigali, Rwanda; US President’s Malaria Initiative, Kigali, Rwanda; WHO Rwanda Office, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Programs, Kigali, Rwanda; The Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

Prioritizing Facilities for Malaria Case Management Training In the Era of Limited Resources

Presenting at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene are James Sarkodie, Amos Asiedu1 Eric LaFary, Richard Dogoli, Raphael Ntumy, Lolade Oseni, and Gladys Tetteh who are sharing experiences on “Prioritizing Facilities for Malaria Case Management Training In the Era of Limited Resources”. The authors are affiliated with the PMI Impact Malaria (IM) Project and Jhpiego Baltimore. Below are their findings.

Ghana has made significant recent improvements in malaria control, reducing malaria deaths by 70% (1565 in 2015 to 468 in 2018) with a corresponding decline in under-5 malaria case fatality rate (CFR) from 0.51% to 0.19%. However, significant geographical variations in malaria morbidity and mortality persist and to achieve greater impact, a one-size fits all training approach may no longer be the most effective option.

The training aimed to prioritize facilities for refresher malaria case management training by the US President’s Malaria Initiative-funded Impact Malaria Project in collaboration with Ghana Health Service through systematic evidence-based criteria informed by quantitative and qualitative data. The team gathered information using routine health management information system (HMIS) data from October 2017 to September 2018 including total malaria admissions, malaria deaths malaria case fatality rates were determined for all districts in respective regions.

Districts with high burden malaria mortality and morbidity were ranked using a Pareto chart. Districts with CFRs above the regional average were also identified.

Assessed qualitative data including facility referral patterns, access, and ownership (government, faith-based, private) to explain the observed findings.  Information used by Regional health management teams to prioritize districts and facilities for additional malaria case management training focusing on assessment, treatment and management of complications, effective monitoring and using quality improvement methods to identify change ideas to test to improve malaria case management. Figure 1 shows the Scheme of approach to prioritizing facilities for Intervention.

Analysis of Routine HMIS data for FY-2018 reveals 37 Districts accounted for 33.9% of all districts in the 5 IM Target Regions & 14.2% all Districts in Ghana. There were 183 Malaria Deaths. Fiudings also observed that 90.1% all Malaria deaths in 5 IM Target Regions, and 39.1% of all Malaria deaths in Ghana

A number of districts had child case fatality rates above the regional average. The Districts with under-5 malaria CFR above the regional average were Ashanti Region (AR) – 31%, , Brong Ahafo Region (BAR) – 28%, Eastern Region (ER) – 31% , Upper East Region(UER) – 15% and Upper West Region (UWR) – 27%. Figure 2 shows the Proportion of Malaria Admissions And Mortality Attributable to TOP 10 Facilities In Target Regions – FY-19

The result of selecting districts and facilities using Pareto Charts is seen in Figures 3 and 4. Figure 3 sows the  Distribution of Malaria Deaths in Districts in Ashanti Region, Ghana, FY-2018, and Figure 4 presents the Distribution of Malaria Deaths in Districts in Brong-Ahafo Region, Ghana, FY-2018.

In conclusion, using routine DHMIS2 data backed by qualitative information including access to health facilities, referral patterns and facility ownership, a rational replicable basis for the prioritization of districts and facilities for intervention can be created and facilities prioritized for training based on evidence.

Regional Health Management teams have adopted a rational approach for prioritizing health facilities for intervention with limited resources with the objective of achieving the best outcome.

Nigeria’s 2018 Demographic and Health Survey: Malaria Situation

The Demographic and Health Survey for 2018 in Nigeria has released preliminary findings. These cover insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), Intermittent Preventive Treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp), and treatment of children with Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapy (ACT).

The key findings have been converted into graphs.  We can see that ITN ownership by a household (HH) is greater in rural areas, but overall reaches only a national average of 60% of households having at least one net. People may recall that the 2010 target by the Roll Back malaria Partnership was 80% for all key indicators with the hope that by attaining and then maintaining 80% coverage or more, malaria incidence would drop and elimination would be on the horizon.

Nigeria is not among WHO’s Elimination by 2020 (E2020) countries, and it is not clear when transmission will move in that direction when key interventions are still not reaching targets. This is due also to the fact that 60% of households covered does not mean that residents are protected. In fact only 30% meet the goal of universal net coverage with at least one net for every two household members.

On the positive side, comparison of household net ownership and wealth status appears to favor the poorer households. 72% of the poorest households have at least one net compared to 48% of the highest income quintile.  Unfortunately the gap between rich and poor narrows when it comes to the target of 1 net for 2 people.

Although these days we stress universal coverage of all household members, DHS still collects data on what are often termed ‘vulnerable’ groups, children below the age of 5 years and pregnant women.  Just over half of each group slept under an ITN the night before the survey. It is obvious that access plays a role, so in those households that actually own at least one net 74% of children and 82% of pregnant women slept under an ITN. These figures might even be higher if the target of 1 net per two people were met.

Nigeria is a huge and diverse country in terms of geography, epidemiology and ethncity. The country has 6 regions that are used for planning and analysis purposes. The map attached shows that there are major regional variations in households owning at least one net and households having at least one net for every 2 people residing there.

There is better coverage of at least one net per household in the northern zones than the southern, with the Northwest achieving 86% and then 42% for covering two people with one net.  When it comes to that latter measure, the remaining 5 regions are all in the 20% level, meaning that for most of the country, there is a long way to go to achieve universal net coverage.

Intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women  with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) has been a long standing intervention to protect women and their unborn children from the devastating effects of malaria. For at least six years now, WHO has recommended that pregnant women take three or more monthly doses of IPTp from the 13th week of pregnancy, onward.

A challenge to getting IPTp is contact with antenatal care services, and only 67% of women who delivered a child in the 5 year preceding the survey attended ANC even once.  Not surprisingly, only 40% of those pregnant women received two doses of IPTp and only 17% got three doses.

Finally, only 28% of children with fever in the two weeks prior to the survey took ACT, although we are not certain about the proportion who had been tested. It is difficult to interpret this finding since we do not know what proportion of those with fever might have been tested and found to harbor malaria parasites. ACTs should only be given to those with positive parasitological tests.

DHS and its sister survey, the Malaria Indicator Survey are performed at approximately three-year intervals. These data sources are valuable for evaluating past interventions and planning new. Clearly some serious planning is needed to address the shortfalls in malaria intervention coverage and save more lives.

A child’s personal experiences with malaria lead to a life career fighting the disease

Gbenga Jokodola tells his story of growing up to fight malaria in Nigeria. Gbenga has a MPH in Field Epidemiology from the University of Ibadan, and a BPharm from Ahmadu Bello University. He is currently working with Malaria Consortium as a Zonal Project Manager on the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) Project, delivering preventive care to over 400,000 children between the ages of 3 – 59 months in Jigawa and Katsina States of Nigeria. He has worked on several malaria projects over the years sponsored by Unicef, the Global Fund, Catholic Relief Services and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As he narrates below, his early experiences with malaria were formative of his present focus in life.

At 3 months of age Gbenga was probably still protected from malaria by maternal antibodies and did not realize what malaria held in store for his future

Growing up in Zaria, northern Nigeria in the 70s and 80s was one of the best experience any child could ask for. I lived with my parents in two rented rooms in a compound on one of the streets in Sabon Gari Zaria – a community that had virtually all the tribes in Nigeria and of course, with all the love and communal living you can ever get from a true Nigerian community.

In such loving setting we enjoyed as children, I imagined that mosquito communities also lived around our pit latrine and backyard. I imagined that parent-mosquitoes trained their off-springs very well on how to bite and fly away tactfully, how to dodge the usual clap-like manner we use in killing mosquitoes, which homes to avoid visiting, and so on.

I was reputed to be a strong boy then, one of the few kids who were “strong”; I was a “tough” boy who rarely fell ill to malaria. Then, it was common to hear, “Gbenga is a strong boy”. I ate and slept in any room in our compound – with or without covering from mosquito and was hailed for doing so by my friends who often fall ill to malaria.

Life lesson as a Primary School pupil: There is no immunity against malaria

One day, the “malaria forces” (mosquitoes) taught me a life lesson: Indeed, there is no immunity against malaria.

My local Government primary school rotated school attendance between morning and afternoon every week. As an 8-year-old, while preparing for my afternoon school I suddenly felt very cold and sleepy at the same time and decided to lie down briefly on my senior brother’s 6-spring bed in our sitting room. Shortly after, I was shivering and sweating profusely under 3 of my mother’s wrappers.

Help was not immediately near as most people were out. My head was pounding like I was a piece of yam being pounded with a pestle in my mother’s mortar. My stomach was churning. All the while, I kept saying “I am a strong boy, I will not be sick”! I was in that state for over an hour. I began to wonder if I was strong after all and will not end up dying. I could no longer talk but my teeth were chattering.

Gbenga second from left at about 7 years old in company of Sisters and friends in the compound

Sweating profusely, yet I was cold! I was helpless. It was in this state that one of our neighbor’s daughters walked into our sitting room, wondering if there was any food to eat. Immediately she saw the “strong man” shivering under 3 wrappers, she raised an alarm. Her shout saved me as neighbors immediately rushed into our sitting room. Among them was a relation of the landlord, a beautiful “Aunty” Esther, who was visiting from the Ahmadu Bello University school of Nursing. As soon as she came over, she said: “this is malaria!”.

Aunty Esther immediately organized and rescued me that day; she saved the life of the “strong man”! She quickly sought iced-cold water and toweled my body with my father’s “untouchable” towel hanging on the door of the inner room. Ah, what a good feel it was! She then gave me a sweet syrup which I later found out to be Paracetamol syrup. After about 30 minutes, she returned with a plate of hot rice and stew, encouraging me to eat before treatment with anti-malarial medication. I struggled to eat the rice, angry that I had lost my ever-available appetite! I only took few spoons, amidst the encouragement I received from all present.

I was then given an injection by Aunty Nurse Esther, tucked back into the bed and told to prepare to sleep. She then said, “Gbenga, no school for you today, okay? You even need to get well before you resume school”. Everyone knew I loved school. I had to lose a precious school day (and three more days) to malaria! So, I simply focused on staying alive, wondering which “wicked” mosquito bit me. That was the day I dramatically lost my title of “strong man” to malaria, painfully realizing that I was not immune to malaria at all!

My treatment against malaria was continued with further jabs of the needle (twice a day) over the course of the next 3 days at the Dispensary/Primary Health Unit “Aunty” Esther directed my parents to. I got well and resumed school after the third day. Later, I researched and found out I was treated with a sedative, Chloroquine and Paracetamol.

Gbenga with classmates at First Baptist Church, Benin Street, Sabon Gari Zaria

My parents later introduced “Sunday-Sunday Medicine” (one Sweetened pyrimethamine tablet weekly) against Malaria to our diet on Sundays. With this painful encounter with Malaria, I resolved to fight mosquitoes; I was determined to regain my “strong man” title. I made up my mind to be a community health worker, saving communities from diseases like malaria.

Fast-forward to Year 2007: My new twist in combating Malaria

By the year 2007, my personal malaria episodes had lessened with greater knowledge of the disease. In addition, the application of the preventive, diagnostic and treatment procedures reduced my malaria episodes to about 1 in 3 years. With each episode, I normally use laboratory test (microscopy) to confirm if severity is +, ++, or even +++. Thereafter, I get a prescription from a Physician on appropriate medication to use.

However, while practicing in Abuja, I encountered a tearful case of death from malaria, of an 8-year old beautiful daughter of a colleague. Three days prior to her death, a Community Pharmacist had dispensed anti-malarial medication to her, based on prescription tendered by the father from a Government hospital he had earlier taken her to. The news of her death brought back memories of how I would have died as

ACCESS-SMC Project: Scaling up access to seasonal malaria chemoprevention in the Sahel

an 8-year old from this same Malaria. Yes, this same Malaria! That death of the 8-year old triggered a fresh resolve in me to step up my fight with mosquitoes and combat malaria squarely at community, state, National and global levels.

Still at War with Malaria in 2018

Now armed with post-graduate training in Public Health/Epidemiology and field-based experience, my Malaria diagnosis strategy has now changed. I now use Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDT). If confirmed positive, I receive prescription on the most applicable Artemisinin-based combination Therapy (ACT) to use.

My malaria story continues and will only end when mosquitoes are defeated – when children and adults no longer fall ill nor die from mosquito bites that cause malaria.

You can follow Gbenga on Twitter.

Improving Malaria through National Rollout of Malaria Service and Data Quality Improvement: A Case Study from Tanzania

Jasmine Chadewa, Chonge Kitojo, Goodluck Tesha, Naomi Kaspar, Lusekelo Njoge, Zahra Mkomwa, Dunstan Bishanga, George Greer, Abdallah Lusasi, and Sigsbert Mkude of the USAID Boresha Afya Project, the US President’s Malaria Initiative, the National Malaria Control Program, and the Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (Tanzanian Ministry of Health) shared how malaria data quality could be improved at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Below are their findings.

Tanzania has a high malaria burden (see Figure 1) and is facing an increased demand for health services. The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC) developed the Malaria Service and Data Quality Improvement (MSDQI) checklist to guide supportive supervision teams in evaluating the quality of malaria case management (MCM) services at facility level. MSDQI helps with the collection, monitoring, and evaluation of facility-based malaria performance indicators at all levels of service delivery that provide timely, accurate information and data for decision-making at district, regional, and national levels.

USAID Boresha Afya conducted MSDQI assessments in 1,222 health facilities in the Lake and Western zones in outpatient departments (OPDs) and during antenatal care (ANC). The program disseminates malaria and ANC guidelines, tablets, job aids, and standard operating procedures. It also continues to facilitate supportive supervision and mentorship through the MSDQI tool to build providers’ capacity in identified areas.

Among the challenges reported, Supervisors need to be trained in more than one module to reduce cost. There is turnover of MSDQI supervisors. Cases that come back positive for diseases other than malaria are not investigated further. The use of Android smartphones sometimes interfered with data collection and the reporting system. • Regions/districts depend on donor support to implement MSDQI activities.

In conclusion, effective implementation of the MSDQI tool requires regions, districts, and facilities to be well informed and given clear instruction so they can form supportive supervision teams. This should be done by:

  • Orienting teams on roles and responsibilities
  • Training teams on relevant competencies, resource allocation, and tablet

use for data collection

The team learned that MCM improved in OPDs and during ANC as a result of the MSDQI assessment. Improved access to quality MCM (diagnosis) nationwide. Frequency of malaria testing increased during the first ANC contact. Testing increased from 87% in April–June 2017 to 96% April–June 2018, a 9% change (see Figure 3). Second doses of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp2) coverage increased by 15% on average in Boresha Afya-supported regions between October 2016 and June 2018 (see Figure 4).

This presentation was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of USAID Boresha Afya and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

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.

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.

Improved Malaria Case Management of Children under Age 5: The Experience of the MCSP Restoration of Health Services Liberia Project

Catherine Gbozee, Birhanu Getahun, Topian Zikeh, Anne Fiedler, and Allyson Nelson of the Maternal and Child Survival Program (Jhpiego and John Snow, Inc.) have presented experiences on improving malaria case management for children in Liberia at the 7th Multilateral Initiative for Malaria Conference in Dakar. Below are their findings.

In malaria-endemic countries, malaria is the second leading cause of mortality for children under the age of 5 years. In Liberia Mortality rate for children under the age of 5 years was 94 per 1,000 in 2013. Malaria accounts for 31% of outpatient mortality for children under the age of 5 years and 51% of all outpatient consultations. Malaria among children under the age of 5 years accounts for 20.5% of all outpatient consultations in Liberia Health services weakened by the epidemic of Ebola virus disease. Over 40% of children under the age of 5 years have tested positive for malaria using malaria rapid diagnostic tests (mRDTs) since 2009 (see Figure 1)

Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) Restoration of Health Services (RHS) Project Objectives for malaria include prevention at facilities, Strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) practices at 77 health facilities through training, intensive supportive supervision, triage, improvement of waste management, and provision of essential IPC commodities and supplies, Increased utilization of and demand for maternal and child health services—Restore delivery of quality primary health care services through implementation of integrated reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health as part of the Essential Package of Health Services in 77 facilities.

MCSP RHS supported health facilities in three counties

  • Grand Bassa: 30 (91% of health facilities in county)
  • Lofa: 17 (27% of health facilities in county)
  • Nimba: 30 (46% of health facilities in county)
  • Population coverage: 900,000 (20% of total population)

Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey 20164 showed that mRDT was done for only 43% and 44% of children with fever in North Central and South Central regions, respectively. Treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) improved from 43% to 81% from 2013 to 2016. Intervention approaches are outlined at the left.

Scores for all technical areas, including malaria, improved
from baseline to endline (see Figure 2). Median facility scores for adherence to malaria clinical standards improved by 75% between baseline and endline in half of MCSP facilities sampled (see Figures 3 and 4). Percent of malaria cases in children under 5 years of age receiving ACT for malaria in MCSP-supported facilities improved from 76% to 82%, despite sporadic stock-outs of ACT (see Figure 5)

Challenges included Frequent stock-outs of mRDTs and ACT. There were Bad roads and broken bridges challenging for supportive supervision, malaria commodity distribution, and facility accessibility to users.

Lessons Learned included Task-shifting and comprehensive hands-on health workforce improvement approaches are essential for revamping and improving quality care provision in post-disaster settings such as Liberia. Uninterrupted and sustained supplies of mRDTs, ACT, and malaria commodities are key for quality malaria case management.

References

1. World Health Organization (WHO). 2015. MCEE-WHO methods and data sources for child causes of death 2000–2015. WHO website.
http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/ChildCOD_method_2000_2015.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2018.

2. Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Liberia, National AIDS Control Program Liberia, et al. 2014.
Liberia demographic and health survey 2013. Demographic and Health Surveys Program website. https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/fr291/fr291.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2018.

3. Liberia Ministry of Health. Liberia Ministry of Health Annual Report 2015. Monrovia, Liberia: Ministry of Health.

4. National Malaria Control Program, Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, and The DHS Program. 2017. Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey 2016.
The Demographic and Health Surveys Program website. http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/MIS27/MIS27.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2018.

This poster 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 Agreement AID-OAA-A-14-00028. The contents are the responsibility of the Maternal and Child Survival Program and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.