Category Archives: Funding

Malaria News Today 2020-09-26: supporting and strengthening malaria programs

Today’s selection of abstracts and news looks at the role of the media in supporting malaria programs, mass treatment to prevent Imported malaria, problems managing malaria in pregnancy services, malaria research in Mali and health systems strengthening to support malaria control in Guinea. Follow links to read mor details.

GHS calls for media support to eradicate malaria

The media has a role in supporting malaria programs

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has called on journalists to support the Service to deliver integrated health package through accurate messages towards malaria eradication in the country.“Also, we need your support to set malaria as a national development agenda. This will drive advocacy for political will, increase partnership, availability and accessibility of effective tool for prevention, diagnoses and treatment of malaria in all the vulnerable populations.”

Dr Anthony Adofo Ofosu, the Deputy Director General, GHS, said this at the launch of “Zero malaria starts with me” campaign in Accra.  The launch coincided with a sensitisation programme by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMRN), the National Malaria Control Programme and the Speak Up African Organisation. The Deputy Director General said “It is the belief of the GHS that with effective engagement…we will be able to eradicate malaria from the country in the near future.”

Mass radical treatment of a group of foreign workers to mitigate the risk of re-establishment of malaria in Sri Lanka

Following malaria elimination, Sri Lanka was free from indigenous transmission for six consecutive years, until the first introduced case was reported in December 2018. The source of transmission (index case) was a member of a group of 32 migrant workers from India and the location of transmission was their residence reporting a high prevalence of the primary vector for malaria. Despite extensive vector control the situation was highly susceptible to onward transmission if another of the group developed malaria. Therefore, Mass Radical Treatment (MRT) of the group of workers for Plasmodium vivax malaria was undertaken to mitigate this risk.

The workers were screened for malaria by microscopy and RDT, their haemoglobin level assessed, and tested for Glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD) using the Care Start RDT and Brewers test prior to treatment with chloroquine (CQ) 25 mg/kg body weight (over three days) and primaquine (PQ, based on G6PD test results) (0.25 mg/kg/day bodyweight for 14 days) following informed consent. All were monitored for adverse events. None of the foreign workers were parasitaemic at baseline screening.

Mass treatment may be an option in prevention of reintroduction settings for groups of migrants who are likely to be carrying latent malaria infections, and resident in areas of high receptivity. However, in the case of Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale, a more reliable and affordable point-of-care test for G6PD activity would be required. Most countries which are eliminating malaria now are in the tropical zone and face considerable and similar risks of malaria re-introduction due to massive labour migration between them and neighbouring countries. Regional elimination of malaria should be the focus of global strategy if malaria elimination from countries is to be worthwhile and sustainable.

Managing intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy challenges: an ethnographic study of two Ghanaian administrative regions

Malaria in pregnancy (MiP) is an important public health problem across sub-Saharan Africa. The package of measures for its control in Ghana in the last 20 years include regular use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs), directly-observed administration (DOT) of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) and prompt and effective case management of MiP. Unfortunately, Ghana like other sub-Saharan African countries did not achieve the reset Abuja targets of 100% of pregnant women having access to IPTp and 100% using LLINs by 2015.

This ethnographic study explored how healthcare managers dealt with existing MiP policy implementation challenges and the consequences on IPTp-SP uptake and access to maternal healthcare. Healthcare managers addressed frequent stock-outs of malaria programme drugs and supplies from the National Malaria Control Programme and delayed reimbursement from the NHIS, by instituting co-payment, rationing and prescribing drugs for women to buy from private pharmacies.

Some clients did not receive the recommended 5?+?doses of SP, others did not obtain LLINs early and some did not obtain treatment for MiP. Healthcare providers felt frustrated whenever they could not provide comprehensive care to women who could not afford comprehensive maternal and MiP care. For Ghana to achieve her goal of controlling MiP, the Ministry of Health and other supporting institutions need to ensure prompt reimbursement of funds, regular supply of programme drugs and medical supplies to public, faith-based and private health facilities.

Malaria prevention program continuation in Guinea

CRS Guinea is the Principal Recipient (PR) in Malaria prevention program continuation grant by the Global Fund for the new cycle of funding (NFM) (January 2021-December 2023). Community health is a top priority of the Ministry of Health as a primary strategy to increase accessibility and coverage to basic health services. Under the new Global Fund grant, the community health component will be expanded to six districts, in addition to two pilot districts, Kindia and Telimele. CRS will also support coordination with other donors, including World Bank, UNICEF, Gavi, European Union and the Guinea Ministry of Health to implement the national community health strategy in 12 health districts supported by Global Fund malaria project.

The United States and Mali Celebrate 60 Years of Friendship and Partnership

Thirty years ago, our National Institutes of Health created a Malaria Research and Training Center, which is now a component of the International Center for Excellence in Research in Mali. Until today, it serves as a reference center with over 700 Malian scientists and support staff who work on malaria and other infectious diseases. Together, we have dropped malaria prevalence rates in Mali by an astounding 60 percent since 2012.

 

Malaria News Today 2020-09-17

Leading off our news update are findings from eastern Kenya about a genetic blood grouping that may help prevent malaria. While government leaders in the Asia-Pacific region committed to eliminating malaria, a report from the Gates Foundation explains how COVID-19 has set progress back and without new tools it may take more than 25 years to rid the world of the disease. In that light, Novartis is staking its finances on being able to make medicines that will be accessible and fight malaria. More details and the Gates video can be seen by clicking the links below.

How Dantu Blood Group protects against malaria

The secret of how the Dantu genetic blood variant helps to protect against malaria has been revealed for the first time by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya. The team found that red blood cells in people with the rare Dantu blood variant have a higher surface tension that prevents them from being invaded by the world’s deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The findings were published in Nature and could be significant in the wider battle against malaria.

In 2017, researchers discovered that the rare Dantu blood variant, which is found regularly only in parts of East Africa, provides some degree of protection against severe malaria. The intention behind this new study was to explain why. Red blood cell samples were collected from 42 healthy children in Kilifi, Kenya, who had either one, two or zero copies of the Dantu gene. The Dantu variant created cells with a higher surface tension—like a drum with a tighter skin. At a certain tension, malaria parasites were no longer able to enter the cell.

Novartis ties bond sale to malaria treatment access in sustainability push

Novartis raised 1.85 billion euros on Wednesday from the sale of a bond on which interest payments will rise if the drugmaker fails to expand access to medicines and programmes to combat malaria and leprosy in a number of developing countries.

Investors are increasingly pushing companies to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues while sustainable investing grows in popularity, spurring an increase in sustainable debt issuance year after year. Novartis’ bond is only the third issue to date to link payments to creditors to company-wide sustainable development targets. By Yoruk Bahceli

Commitment to make Asia Pacific a malaria free region

Government officials from across Asia Pacific have come together during virtual Malaria Week 2020, to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating malaria and strengthening health systems to keep the region safe from health threats. Embracing the theme of “Inclusion. Integration. Innovation.”, officials called for increased collaboration and action to accelerate towards the goal of ending malaria in the region by 2030, at a time when major gains and regional progress are under threat due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

It could take up to 25 years to eradicate malaria from Africa – Bill Gates

Bill Gates said: “Moving to malaria which is a very awful disease not just to the kids it kills but many kids whose brains are permanently damaged, the economic effects you have with malaria. If we don’t have new tools like vaccines or new ways of killing mosquitoes, it would probably take more than 25 years to get rid of malaria. If we get the new tools and they work, we think it can be done in under 20 years. So the malaria field is both trying to keep the number of deaths down, and we have to deal with the resistance that comes up, that the mosquitoes develop.”

Gates Foundation Report notes that, “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.” Extreme poverty increased 7% because of COVID-19. In a video included in the Foundation’s report, Bill Gates explains how COVID-19 disrupts the fight against malaria.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-15

Malaria Journal released three articles ranging from the relation between malaria and agricultural irrigation, artemisinin resistance on the Myanmar-China border, and efforts at costing malaria elimination interventions. PLoS Medicine examined the quality of malaria clinical management in children. Finally, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology reported on a new drug against malaria and toxoplasmosis. Click on links to read more details.

Minimal tillage and intermittent flooding farming systems show a potential reduction in the proliferation of Anopheles mosquito larvae in a rice field in Malanville, Northern Benin

Irrigation systems have been identified as one of the factors promoting malaria disease around agricultural farms in sub-Saharan Africa. However, if improved water management strategy is adopted during rice cultivation, it may help to reduce malaria cases among human population living around rice fields.

A clear reduction of larva density was observed with both intermittent flooding systems applied to minimal tillage (MT?+?IF?+?NL) and intermittent flooding applied to deep tillage (DT?+?IF?+?AL), showing that intermittent flooding could reduce the abundance of malaria vector in rice fields. Recommending intermittent flooding technology for rice cultivation may not only be useful for water management but could also be an intentional strategy to control mosquitoes vector-borne diseases around rice farms.

No evidence of amplified Plasmodium falciparum plasmepsin II gene copy number in an area with artemisinin-resistant malaria along the China–Myanmar border

The emergence and spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum poses a threat to malaria eradication, including China’s plan to eliminate malaria by 2020. Piperaquine (PPQ) resistance has emerged in Cambodia, compromising an important partner drug that is widely used in China in the form of dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-PPQ. Several mutations in a P. falciparum gene encoding a kelch protein on chromosome 13 (k13) are associated with artemisinin resistance and have arisen spread in the Great Mekong subregion, including the China–Myanmar border. Multiple copies of the plasmepsin II/III (pm2/3) genes, located on chromosome 14, have been shown to be associated with PPQ resistance.

DHA-PPQ for uncomplicated P. falciparum infection still showed efficacy in an area with artemisinin-resistant malaria along the China–Myanmar border. There was no evidence to show PPQ resistance by clinical study and molecular markers survey. Continued monitoring of the parasite population using molecular markers will be important to track emergence and spread of resistance in this region.

Costing malaria interventions from pilots to elimination programmes

Malaria programmes in countries with low transmission levels require evidence to optimize deployment of current and new tools to reach elimination with limited resources. Recent pilots of elimination strategies in Ethiopia, Senegal, and Zambia produced evidence of their epidemiological impacts and costs. There is a need to generalize these findings to different epidemiological and health systems contexts. Drawing on experience of implementing partners, operational documents and costing studies from these pilots, reference scenarios were defined for rapid reporting (RR), reactive case detection (RACD), mass drug administration (MDA), and in-door residual spraying (IRS). These generalized interventions from their trial implementation to one typical of programmatic delivery. In doing so, resource use due to interventions was isolated from research activities and was related to the pilot setting. Costing models developed around this reference implementation, standardized the scope of resources costed, the valuation of resource use, and the setting in which interventions were evaluated. Sensitivity analyses were used to inform generalizability of the estimates and model assumptions.

Populated with local prices and resource use from the pilots, the models yielded an average annual economic cost per capita of $0.18 for RR, $0.75 for RACD, $4.28 for MDA (two rounds), and $1.79 for IRS (one round, 50% households). Intervention design and resource use at service delivery were key drivers of variation in costs of RR, MDA, and RACD. Scale was the most important parameter for IRS. Overall price level was a minor contributor, except for MDA where drugs accounted for 70% of the cost. The analyses showed that at implementation scales comparable to health facility catchment area, systematic correlations between model inputs characterizing implementation and setting produce large gradients in costs. Prospective costing models are powerful tools to explore resource and cost implications of policy alternatives. By formalizing translation of operational data into an estimate of intervention cost, these models provide the methodological infrastructure to strengthen capacity gap for economic evaluation in endemic countries. The value of this approach for decision-making is enhanced when primary cost data collection is designed to enable analysis of the efficiency of operational inputs in relation to features of the trial or the setting, thus facilitating transferability.

Quality of clinical management of children diagnosed with malaria: A cross-sectional assessment in 9 sub-Saharan African countries between 2007–2018

Appropriate clinical management of malaria in children is critical for preventing progression to severe disease and for reducing the continued high burden of malaria mortality. This study aimed to assess the quality of care provided to children under 5 diagnosed with malaria across 9 sub-Saharan African countries. We used data from the Service Provision Assessment (SPA) survey. SPAs are nationally representative facility surveys capturing quality of sick-child care, facility readiness, and provider and patient characteristics across 9 countries, including Uganda (2007), Rwanda (2007), Namibia (2009), Kenya (2010), Malawi (2013), Senegal (2013–2017), Ethiopia (2014), Tanzania (2015), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018).

In this study, we found that a majority of children diagnosed with malaria across the 9 surveyed sub-Saharan African countries did not receive recommended care. Clinical management is positively correlated with the stocking of essential commodities and is somewhat improved in more recent years, but important quality gaps remain in the countries studied. Continued reductions in malaria mortality will require a bigger push toward quality improvements in clinical care. Despite increases in the distribution of malaria tests and effective antimalarial medications, significant gaps in the quality of care for pediatric malaria are present in these 9 countries. Further improvements in quality of malaria care may require a better understanding of remaining barriers and facilitators to appropriate management.

Novel drug could be a powerful weapon in the fight against malaria and toxoplasmosis

Princeton researchers are making key contributions toward developing a promising new treatment for the widespread and devastating diseases toxoplasmosis and malaria.
The Princeton scientists specialize in preparing the drug compound into a medicine that is both safe and effective for humans and able to reach its intended sites of action in the body in sufficient doses. An international team of scientists found the new drug—designated JAG21—to be highly effective against parasites in cell-based studies in the lab. After the discovery, team representatives contacted Princeton’s Robert Prud’homme for help in translating the JAG21 compound into a deliverable medication. Prud’homme is a co-author of a study, published in June 2020 in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, that describes the compound and its excellent preliminary results in mice.

Malaria: Global Funding, Not Just the Global Fund

The Global Fund sixth Replenishment Conference will take place in October 2019 to raise new funds and mobilize partners toward ending AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030 in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals. The target is to raise at least US$14 billion “to help save 16 million lives, avert 234 million infections and help the world get back on track to end these diseases.”

It is not exactly clear how much of this US$14 billion would be pegged for malaria, especially since there are cross-cutting health systems strengthening components to many grants. That said, the total seems to pale in light of the 2018 World Malaria Report estimated investment needs of US$6.6 billion alone for malaria from 2020 onward.

Of course the Global Fund is calling on the private sector to “mobilize at least US$1 billion to step up the fight.” It is not clear whether this should be included in the US14 billion or in addition.

The RBM Partnership notes that “Accounting for more than half of all external resources and 44% of total malaria funds available, the Global Fund represents the leading source of funding for malaria prevention and treatment.” Such non-Global Fund external resources have come from partners like the World Bank, the US President’s Malaria Initiative, DfID and a host of other bilateral, NGO and corporate sources. The implication is that at most 15-20% of current financial investment in malaria has been borne endemic countries.

RBM also highlights that at the recent African Union meeting, “African Heads of State and Government adopted the 2018 African Union Malaria Progress Report which was prepared by malaria experts from countries in Africa…” This means that the leaders acknowledged that malaria investments and significant achievements already made “are under threat and accelerated action is needed now to get countries back on track.” This led the current chair of the Africa Malaria Leaders Alliance, His Majesty King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, to say, “It will take significant resources to achieve malaria elimination.  Now, more than ever, we must boost our domestic resources from both the public and private sectors.”

Analysis in the ALMA Scorecard shows in the fourth quarter of 2018 most countries have acquired the needed funds to finance malaria commodities. The analysis does not point out the source of these funds. The 2030 target is only 11 years away. Serious national planning, political will and advocacy are needed not only to prevent resurgence of malaria to pre-RBM days, but also to reduce and eliminate a disease responsible for so much economic loss and loss of life.

Guinea: The Challenge of Malaria Control in a Post-Ebola Context

The preliminary 2018 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data have been released for Guinea (Conakry). Since the last DHS in 2012, Guinea and its neighbors experienced the largest Ebola outbreak in history, an event that damaged already weak health systems.

The previous DHS showed very weak malaria indicators. Only 47% of households had at least one ITN, which averages to 0.8 ITNs per person (compared to the universal coverage of 2.0). Among vulnerable groups only 26% of children below the age of 5 years slept under an ITN, as did 28% of pregnant women. Very few, 18%, pregnant women got two doses of IPTp, and only 5% of febrile children received ACTs (testing was not reported then).

Not much has changed concerning ITN coverage as reported in 2018. Slight improvements are seen in IPTp (which now requires 3 or more doses) and malaria testing and treatment for children. Ironically none of the indicators has passed the original 2006 Roll Back Malaria target of 60%, let alone 80% for 2010 and not of course the drive for universal coverage.

DHS has released a preliminary report for 2018 and the malaria component is summarized in the charts posted here. The national coverage for ITNs is 44%, slightly lower than 2012, but the average per household member is slightly higher at 1.1. Again, these numbers do not mark significant progress. Looking at wealth and ITN ownership there is a slight benefit in terms of equity in net possession among those with lower income, but this must be seen in the overall context of very low basic coverage.

Having a net in the household and using it are different challenges as seen in the reports of sleeping under the net on the night prior to the survey among children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. The sad finding is that even in households that own a net, the coverage of these two groups remains very low. This is reflected in the low net per person ratio nationally (1.1).

One would almost wonder if malaria is a neglected disease in Guinea. The reality is that since 2003, Guinea has received around $172 million US dollars in malaria project funding from the Global Fund. Its most recent annual funding from the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is around $14 million.  Of that PMI funding 24% was designated for nets and related activities, while 52% was to be spent on medicines, diagnostics and pharmaceutical management. These investments include systems strengthening and capacity building in addition to commodities.

PMI provides the needed context: “Since the country was declared Ebola-free in in June of 2016, Guinea continues to make positive advances towards building a strong health system in line with the health recovery plan. The government continues to mobilize internal and external resources for rolling out the health system recovery plan, but much remains to be done if this plan is to yield the intended results.” Areas in particular need of strengthening within the National Malaria Control Program include coordination, health information systems, leadership, supervision and logistics.

Three years have passed since the last Ebola case in Guinea. Hopefully the country can stave off another outbreak and at the same time strengthen its health system. Guinea may not yet be targeted for malaria elimination, but until systems are strengthened, the resources going into malaria control will not be able to push malaria indicators toward saving more lives.

Community Based Health Insurance Can Fight Malaria

Community-Based Health Insurance (CBHI) is seen as a way to promote universal health coverage and protect vulnerable populations from catastrophic financial effects of illness. Malaria can be such an illness is not treated in a timely manner, and having insurance can help prevent delays.

In countries including Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Senegal a particular CBHI scheme known as mutuelles has taken root. For Rwanda USAID (2018) reports that …

The 2014–2015 DHS showed that insurance coverage has remained stable since the 2010DHS and that 79 percent of the households have at least one family member with health insurance and that among those insured 97 percent have community health insurance (mutuelles). Early ANC attendance is also encouraged by providing targeted SBCC, combined with innovative community- and facility-level performance-based financing and high enrollment in community health insurance schemes (mutuelles). The MoH, with the support of partners, has worked to improve the quality of services for case management at health facilities through training and capacity building efforts at national and district levels.

A study looked at health care seeking for children below 5years of age in Rwanda in 2005 to 2010 and found that, “In both years,under-five children with Mutuelles were more likely to use medical care than uninsured children. Children in 2010 had a higher probability of using medical care … regardless of the children’s poverty or Mutuelles status.” The study provides an example of how pre-payment CBHI can not only increase universal health coverage but also address challenges of equity (Mejía-Guevara et al., 2015).

Below is a chart showing the fee structure in Rwanda (Tashobya, 2017). [The trainer should ask participants about fees for CBHIs or other national health insurance schemes in their countries if such exist and how participation in CHBI helps achieve UHC.]

Fees in Rwanda’s community insurance scheme, Mutuelles                                  
Ubudehe/Social Category Annual Rwandan Francs per Household Member Approximate US Dollars
1 0 (Paid by government) 0
2 2,000 2.25
3 3,000 3.35
4 4,000 7.85

Now The East African reports that, “With more than 90 per cent of Rwandans covered under the community-based health insurance scheme locally known as Mutuelle de Santé, Rwanda is one of the few developing countries in the world that have successfully achieved universal healthcare” (Kagire, 2018) This was achieved by addressing enrollment, quality of cane and transferring management of the scheme to the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB). Now more than ever, no one needs to die from malaria in Rwanda.

  • Kagire, Edmund (2018). Rwanda Has Achieved Universal Healthcare. The East African. 15 December 2018. https://allafrica.com/stories/201812150128.html
  • Mejía-Guevara I, Hill K, Subramanian SV, Lu C. (2015). Service availability and association between Mutuelles and medical care usage for under-five children in rural Rwanda: a statistical analysis with repeated cross-sectional data. BMJ Open. 2015 Sep 8;5(9):e008814. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008814.
  • Tashobya, Athan (2017). Mutuelle Month: Govt targets 100% subscription. The New Times. Published : April 03, 2017. https://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/210035
  • USAID/President’s Malaria Initiative (2018) Rwanda Malaria Operational Plan FY19. https://www.pmi.gov/docs/default-source/default-document-library/malaria-operational-plans/fy19/fy-2019-rwanda-malaria-operational-plan.pdf?sfvrsn=3

Malaria funding may never be enough, but better program management should be possible

The World Malaria Report shows that malaria cases are up, and even though there are fewer reported cases in 2017 than 2010, the number is greater than 2016. So once again high burden countries are being targeted. Today this focus is on “High Burden to High Impact”, but in 2012-13 it was the “Malaria Situation Room” that also focused on 10 high burden countries.

Progress was being made up to around 2015-16, it then started to reverse. The challenge was not just funding. As the WHO Director General noted in the foreword to the 2018 World Malaria Report (WMR), “Importantly, ‘High burden to high impact’ calls for increased funding, with an emphasis on domestic funding for malaria, and better targeting of resources. The latter is especially pertinent because many people who could have benefited from malaria interventions missed out because of health system inefficiencies.”

Over the years there have never been enough pledged funds to fully achieve targets, but as funding has never reached desired levels, attention is now being drawn more and more to the source of that funding (more emphasis on domestic/endemic countries) and especially how the health system functions to use the funds that are made available. In 1998 during one of the early meetings establishing the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, a speaker stressed that malaria control could not succeed without concomitant health systems strengthening and reform. That 20-year-old thought was prescient for today’s dilemma.

First, what is the funding situation? As outlined in the World Malaria Report …

  • In 2017, an estimated US$ 3.1 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally by governments of malaria endemic countries and international partners – an amount slighter higher than the figure reported for 2016.
  • Governments of endemic countries contributed 28% of total funding (US$ 900 million) in 2017, a figure unchanged from 2016.
  • Funding for malaria has remained relatively stable since 2010
  • To reach the Global Technical Strategy 2030 targets, it is estimated that annual malaria funding will need to increase to at least US$ 6.6 billion per year by 2020

The question remains – does investment lead to results. The WMR shows, for example, that “Between 2015 and 2017, a total of 624 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs/LLINs), were reported by manufacturers as having been delivered globally. This represents a substantial increase over the previous period 2012–2014, when 465 million ITNs were delivered globally”.

At the same time the report states that, “Households with at least one ITN for every two people doubled to 40% between 2010 and 2017. However, this figure represents only a modest increase over the past 3 years, and remains far from the target of universal coverage.” Is it simply a matter of funding to reach the other 60% of households, or are there serious management problems on the ground?

Then there is the issue of using nets. The WMR traces new ownership and use from 2010 to 2017, and we can see that overall the proportion of the population at risk who slept under a net increased from around 30% to 50%, but only 56% of those with access to a net were sleeping under them. This can be attributed in part but not completely to the adequacy of nets in a household.

We should ask are enough nets getting to the right places, and also are efforts in place to promote their use. Behavior change efforts should be a major component of malaria program management. Even the so called biological challenges to malaria control have a human element. Monkey malaria transmission to people results from deforestation. Malaria parasite resistance to medicines comes from poor drug management on individual and systems levels.

The target year 2030 will be here before we know it. Will malaria still be here, or will countries and donors get serious about malaria financing AND program management?

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.

African Leaders Malaria Alliance Recognizes Country Achievements, Adds NTDs to its Scorecard

The 30th African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia provided an important opportunity to bring the challenges of infectious diseases on the continent to the forefront. Led by the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), two major activities occurred, raising greater awareness and commitment to fighting neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and recognizing the contributions countries have made in the fight against malaria.

For many years ALMA has maintained Scorecard for Accountability and Action by monitoring country progress on key malaria interventions. It later added key maternal and child health indicators.  At the AU Summit ALMA announced that NTD indicators would be added to the scorecards which are reported by country and in summary.

The scorecard will now “report progress for the 47 NTD-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa in their strategies to treat and prevent the five most common NTDs: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma. By adding NTDs to the scorecard, African leaders are making a public commitment to hold themselves accountable for progress on these diseases.”

In the press release Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary ofALMA, explained that, “Malaria and NTDs both lay their heaviest burden on the poor, rural and marginalised. They also share solutions, from vector control to community-based treatment. Adding NTDs to our scorecard will help give leaders the information they need to end the cycle of poverty and reach everyone, everywhere with needed health care.” This will be an opportunity to demonstrate, for example, that, “In 2016, 40 million more people were reached with preventive treatment for at least one NTD than the year before.”

The combination is based on the logic that NTDs and malaria are both diseases of poverty. Malaria and several NTDs are also vector-borne. Also community platforms are a foundation for delivering needed drugs and supplies to tackle these diseases. Ultimately the decision shows that Heads of State are holding themselves accountable for progress in eliminating these diseases.

At a malaria-focused side meeting of the AU Summit Dr. Kebede Worku (Ethiopia’s State Minister of Health) shared that his government has been mobilizing large amount of resources to the fight against malaria which has led to the shrinking of morbidity and mortality since 2005. He also stressed that Africans should be committed to eliminate malaria by the year 2030. “Failing to do so is to repeat the great failure of 1960s faced at the global malaria fighting.”

The highlight for the malaria community at the Summit was the recognition of six countries that have made exemplary progress in the past year. The 6 countries that are leading the way to a Malaria-Free Africa by 2030 are Algeria, Comoros, Madagascar, the Gambia, Senegal, and Zimbabwe, recognized by ALMA for their sharp decline in malaria cases. Madagascar, the Gambia, Senegal and Zimbabwe Reduced malaria cases by more than 20 percent from 2015 to 2016. Algeria and Comoros are on track to achieve a more than 40 percent drop in cases by 2020.

H.E . Dr. Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland, whose King and Head of State is the current chair of ALMA, warned all endemic countries that, “When we take our eyes off malaria, the cost for our countries is huge. Yet if we increase our efforts to control and eventually eliminate malaria, the yield we get from it is tremendous. It is time that we dig deep into our pockets and provide malaria programmes with the needed resources.”

Mentioning the need for resources raises a flag that calls on us to be a bit more circumspect about progress. IRINNews notes that this is a critical time in the fight against malaria, when threatened funding cuts could tip the balance in an already precarious struggle. IRIN takes the example of Zambia to raise caution. They report that the results of malaria control and the government efforts have been uneven. While parasite prevalence among small children is down almost by half in some areas, many parts of the country have seen increases in prevalence

IRIN concludes that, “For now, the biggest challenge for Zambia will be closing the gap in its malaria elimination strategy, which will cost around $160 million a year and is currently only about 50 percent funded – two thirds from international donors and one third from the Zambian government. Privately, international donors say the government must spend more money on its malaria programme if it is to succeed.” Cross-border transmission adds to the problem.

Internal strife is another challenge to malaria success. “The recent nurses’ strike which lasted for five months may have cost Kenya a continental award in reducing the prevalence of malaria during the 30th African Union Summit in Ethiopia on Sunday.” John Muchangi in the Star also noted that, “However, Kenya lost momentum last year and a major malaria outbreak during the prolonged nurses’ strike killed more than 30 people within two weeks in October.”

Finally changes in epidemiology threaten efforts to eliminate malaria in Africa. Nkumana, et al. explain that, “Although the burden of Plasmodium falciparum malaria is gradually declining in many parts of Africa, it is characterized by spatial and temporal variability that presents new and evolving challenges for malaria control programs. Reductions in the malaria burden need to be sustained in the face of changing epidemiology whilst simultaneously tackling significant pockets of sustained or increasing transmission. Many countries like Zambia thus face both a financial and an epidemiological challenge.

Fortunately ALMA is equipped with the monitoring and advocacy tools to ensure that its members recognize and respond to such challenges. The Scorecards will keep the fight against the infectious diseases of poverty on track.

Ghana – spotlight on malaria indicators

The Demographic and Health Surveys has released a brief on key indicators from the Ghana Malaria Indicator Survey of 2016. While much of the malaria community is discussing the elimination framework and processes, the reality is that many high burden countries are still trying to scale up basic interventions to achieve universal coverage.

The overall prevalence across the country in children aged 6-59 months at the time of the survey was 27% using Rapid Diagnostic test and 20% using microscopy.  Among children reporting fever in the previous two weeks care/advice was sought for only 72%. Although only only 30% received some sort of blood based diagnostic test, 61% of the febrile children were given the antimalarial artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs.

Children are still being treated without the benefit of parasitological testing, a key procedure highlighted in WHO case management guidelines. Presumptive treatment for malaria without testing means that a child could inappropriately receive antimalarial drugs and die of another underlying febrile illness. Appropriate testing and adherence to test results is one of the main areas of focus of Ghana’s grants from the US President’s Malaria Initiative. Improved testing is also an important element in Ghana’s current Global Fund support. Clearly more value for money is needed from these inputs.

Preventive measures as documented in the MIS fare somewhat better., but at present only 73% of households own an insecticide treated bednet. When considering the recommended 1 net for every 2 household members, the indicator drops to 50%. Concerning the typical ‘vulnerable’ populations, we see that only 52% of children below the age of 5 years slept under an ITN the night before the survey; only 50% of pregnant women did likewise.

Malaria prevention in pregnancy results reflect the fact that Ghana has promoted at least three IPTp doses for around ten years. Most pregnant women (78% ) had received the previously recommended minimum of two doses, and now 60% have received at least three doses.

One of the important issues stressed in WHO’s new malaria elimination framework is stratifying the country by prevalence to the lowest level possible in order to plan appropriate interventions. Fortunately the Ghana 217 MIS key indicator brief does stratify prevalence and intervention coverage by region.  Prevalence through RDT testing ranges from nearly 5% in the urbanized greater Accra area to 44% in the Central Region. Interestingly ITN use is nearly 20% higher in Central than greater Accra.

Hopefully future planning in Ghana will build on this stratification. Better mobilization of donor, national and private sector resources will address likely issues of stock-outs and increase the likelihood of universal coverage of basic interventions that is needed to move the country along the road to malaria elimination.