Category Archives: ITNs

Zero Malaria Starts with Universal Coverage: Part 1 Nets

WHO says, “Malaria elimination and universal health coverage go hand in hand,” at a special event during the 72st World Health Assembly. To achieve zero malaria, the goal of involving everyone from the policy maker to the community member must have a focus on achieving universal health coverage (UHC) of all malaria interventions ranging from insecticide treated bednets (ITNs) to appropriate provision of malaria diagnostics and medicines. Many of the studies to date have focused on ITNs, which include long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs), but nationwide monitoring through the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), the Malaria Indicator Surveys (MIS) and the Multi-Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS).

UNICEF’s website provides a data repository that includes the most recent DHS, MIS and MICS survey data per country between 2014 and 2017. For the indicator of one ITN per to people in a household, shows Angola at only 13%, most countries for which recent data are available reached between 40-50%. Only two achieved above 60% on a point-in-time survey, Uganda at 62% and Sao Tome and Principe at 95%. The website shows information that where there were multiple surveys in a country during the period, there were variations, sometimes quite wide, over the years. Aside from the fact that the surveys may have had slightly different procedures, the problem remains of achieving and sustaining UHC for ITNs.

Another factor that affects maintaining UHC for ITNs, assuming the target can be met is the durability of nets. The physical integrity as well as the insecticide efficacy can decline over time. Intact nets may lose their insecticide through improper washing and drying, yet still prevent mosquito bites to the individual sleeping under them. Nets with holes may still maintain a minimal level of effective insecticide and may not fully prevent bites but ultimately kill the mosquito that flies through. Researchers in Senegal have been grappling with these challenges.

Program managers must themselves grapple with whether such compromised nets count toward universal coverage as well as how often to conduct net replacement campaigns. A report from community surveys in Uganda during 2017 found that, “Long-lasting insecticidal net ownership and coverage have reduced markedly in Uganda since the last net distribution campaign in 2013/14.” UHC for ITNs is always a moving target.

A frequently unaddressed issue in seeking to improve ITN coverage is whether it makes a difference in malaria disease. A study in Malawi reported that although ITNs per household increased from 1.1 in 2012 to 1.4 in 2014, the prevalence of malaria in children increased over the period from 28% to 32%. The authors surmised that factors such as insecticide resistance, irregular ITN use and inadequate coordinated use of other malaria control interventions may have influenced the results. This shows that UHC for ITNs cannot be viewed in isolation.

This brings up the issue of the role of the many different vector control measures available. Researchers in Côte d’ Ivoire examined the use of eave nets and window screening. At present eave nets are mainly deployed in research contexts but use of window and door screening and netting are a commercially available interventions that households employ on their own. One wonders then whether UHC should focus on how the household and the people therein are protected by any malaria vector intervention.

Here the discussion should focus on the question raised by colleagues in the USAID/PMI Vectorworks Project. WHO declared a goal of universal ITN coverage in 2009 using the target f one ITN/LLIN for every two household members. Vectorworks found that a decade on only one instance of a country briefly achieving 80% of this UHC net target, whereas no others reached above 60%. In fact, the bigger the household, the less chance there was of meeting the two people for one ITN target. Just because people live in a household that has the requisite number of nets, does not guarantee the actual target for sleeping under a net can be achieved because of practical or cultural realities in a household. Neither the minimal indicator of having at least one net in a household, or the ideal or ‘perfect’ indicator of UHC are satisfactory for judging population protection.

The Vectorworks team suggests that, “Population ITN access indicator is a far better indicator of ‘universal coverage’ because it is based on individual people,” and can be compared to, “The proportion of the population that used an ITN the previous night, which enables detailed analysis of specific behavioral gaps nationally as well as among population subgroups.” Population access to ITNs therefore, provides a batter basis for more realistic policies and strategies.

We have seen that defining as well as achieving universal coverage of malaria interventions is a challenging prospect. For example, do we base our monitoring on households or populations? Do we have the funds and technical capacity to implement and sustain the level of coverage required to have an impact on malaria transmission and move toward elimination? Are we able to introduce new, complimentary and appropriate interventions as a country moves closer to elimination?

A useful perspective would be determination if households and individuals even benefit from any part of the malaria package, even if everyone does not have access and utilize all components. This may be why zero malaria has to start with each person living in endemic areas.

Equity in Malaria Programming, the example of bednets

The WHO defines Equity as “the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification. ‘Health equity’ or ‘equity in health’ implies that ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.”

WHO goes on to say that, “Countries and programs need to disaggregate selected health indicators by key stratifiers including demographic characteristics (gender, age), place of residence (urban/rural, subnational), socioeconomic status (wealth, education), as well as other characteristics (migrant/minority status etc.).”

Writing for the Tropical Disease Research Program, H. Kristian Heggenhougen, Veronica Hackethal, and Pramila Vivek in the publication, The behavioural and social aspects of malaria and its control, say that …

“What must now be clear is our conviction that any review of factors for world-wide malaria control must give specific attention to issues of socio-economic inequity and disease epidemiology.” Malaria is not an equal opportunity killer, but disproportionately affects certain segments of the population. Heggenhougen et al. continue that, “while we argue for a focused attack on malaria, we cannot avoid noting that without attention to these larger matters – inequity and marginalization – any improvement in health, including malaria, may be short-lived.”

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and its Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) provide an important snapshot on equity issues in the rollout and coverage of major malaria.   In particular, we look at the issue of long lasting insecticide-treated nets in two countries, Ghana (2016 MIS) and Liberia (2016 MIS), to demonstrate how equity issues can be seen. Two three measures are considered, wealth quintile, location (urban/rural) and gender/sex.

In Ghana we see that having at least one net for the household is more common in lower income groups. These groups are more vulnerable. Although not specifically shown in the MIS, one might assume that people in the higher income groups have better quality housing that provides less opportunity for mosquito entry. Likewise households in rural areas, where anopheles are more likely to breed, have a higher proportion of nets. So while nets are not ‘equally distributed by these characteristics, they are more favorably available in those households that may be more vulnerable to malaria.

When we look at the indicator of universal coverage where it is expected that there should be one net for every two household members, the proportion meeting that goal is much lower than simply having a net in the household for all groups.  That said the pattern of higher proportions among rural and lower income groups remains. Within households, the Ghana MIS a nearly equal proportion of female (43%) and male (41%) had slept under a net the night prior to the survey.

Overall, Liberia has much lower LLIN coverage than Ghana. The pattern for location is similar to that of Ghana, but for wealth, the poorest group (Q1) have lower coverage that wealth quintile groups 2-4. Also as in Ghana the Female (40%) and male (38%) are very similar.

We encourage readers to review the recent MIS and/or DHS reports from the countries where they work and look for differences in net availability as well as uptake of other malaria control interventions to determine the level of equity in intervention access and use, but also as one sees in Liberia, take action to ensure that strategies are in place to reach the poorest and most vulnerable segment of society.

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.

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?

Tanzania: Slow Progress in Preventing Malaria

The full 2017 Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) results have been published for Tanzania providing an opportunity to look at the findings in more detail. Several important factors need highlighting since Tanzania is part of a regional block where some countries are activly considering malaria elimination – the E8 countries of the Southern Africa Development Community.

So far Tanzania has come close to achieving a target of 80% of households owning insecticide treated nets (ITNs) with 78% on the mainland and 79% in Zanzibar. A closer look shows that there is still a ways to go to get to universal coverage or at least one net for every two persons in the household. With this indicator 45% of mainland and 42% of Zanzibar households have met the target, meaning that there are unprotected people in a majority of households across the country. This indicator experienced a drop from a 2011 “high” of 56%, a drop to 39% in 2015 and a slight recovery to 45% in 2017.

Even the universal coverage target requires that people actually sleep under the nets. What the MIS report shows is that although 63% of people had access to an ITN, only 52% reported sleeping under one the night before the survey.

Equity remains an issue with 69% of households in the lowest wealth quintile owning at least one net compared to 81% and 83% in the middle and fourth quintiles. Although households in the highest quintile had 78% ownership, this group is more likely to live in better quality housing that prevents the ingress of most mosquitoes. Also residents in urban areas have an edge over rural counterparts in terms of net access.

The report show that 55% of children under 5 years of age and 51% of pregnant women slept under an ITN. This is down from 72% and 75% respectively in 2011.

We learn that 90% of existing nets were obtained through some form of public sector campaign including mass distribution (62%), village coupons redeemable at health centers (15%), and school campaigns (4%). Only 5% were obtained through routine services (ANC, child immunization) indicating that efforts to ‘keep up’ after mass campaigns need to be strengthened. The 10% of nets, whether treated or not, that were obtained in shops and markets cost the owner in the neighborhood of US$5.00.

Uptake of doses of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in pregnancy has slowly but steadily increased over the past 15 years and stood at 83% for one dose, 56% for two doses and 26% for three in this most recent MIS. With the current target being three or more doses needed for optimal protection, Tanzania still has a far long way to go, especially considering that accessing ITNs through ANC services is also low..

Establishing Mobile Outreach Teams (MOTs) for strengthening Active Case Detection with Mobile Populations in Vietnam 2016-2020

Mobile migrant populations present a special challenge for malaria control and elimination efforts. Nguyen Ha Nam and colleagues* (Nguyen Xuan Thang, Gary Dahl, James O’Donnell, Vashti Irani, Sara Canavati, Jack Richards, Ngo Duc Thang, and Tran Thanh Duong) presented their study of this group at the recent Malaria World Congress. They are also sharing what they learned below.

Mobile Migrant Populations (MMPs) are a key population for containing the spread of malaria in the border areas between Cambodia and Vietnam. The number of imported cases in Viet Nam in 2017. 12,5% of such cases caught in Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong provinces and all of them came from Cambodia. The provinces bordering Cambodia and Vietnam have been had the highest malaria transmission intensity. This borders are frequented by MMPs who have proven difficult to target for surveillance and malaria control activities.

Mobile Outreach Teams (MOTs) provide a potential approach to target malaria elimination activities for MMPs who may not be strongly supported by the regular village-based and clinic-based health services. This work describes the implementation of MOTs in Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong Provinces, which are high-risk regions along the Viet Nam-Cambodia border. These activities were conducted as part of the Regional Artemisinin-resistance Initiative (RAI) in 2017. Each MOT was comprised of 2 Commune Health Staff and 1 Village Health Worker (VHW) from the village nearest to the outreach area.

In the first phase of the pilot, 3 communes of 2 districts in Binh Phuoc and 2 communes of 1 district in Dak Nong with highest malaria cases reported from NIMPE are selected as targeted areas. The Objectives were to …

  • Design/tailor Mobile Outreach Information Education and Communication/Behaviour change communication (BCC/ IEC) Toolkit
  • Intensify case detection and quality management by increasing the coverage of diagnostics and treatment for hard to reach populations
  • Strengthen outreach to high-risk and under-served populations through MOT scouting activities to locate unreached Mobile Communities and map their locations
  • Link MMPs with health facilities and Village Health Workers

All MOT members were provided with smartphones and were trained on how to use the EpiCollect5 app to track malaria cases, record mapping information and upload real-time reports of these malaria cases. MOTs conducted 5-day outreach activities every month. These activities began with scouting out locations of the MMP communities.

Once located, the MOTs geo-tagged the location of the community, conducted a short epidemiological survey on the community and screened for malaria using Rapid Diagnostic Tests and blood smear microscopy. Active malaria cases were provided with treatment according to the National guidelines, and Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets were distributed based on results of diagnosis and the survey.

This action has led to increased diagnosis and treatment of hard to reach MMPs with increased access by those communities to malaria services. Improved understanding and increased use of malaria prevention practices hard to reach MMP communities/households. Mapped of previously unreached MMP Communities and unofficial border crossing points with malaria transmission hotspots and highly frequented crossing identified. The number of MMPs were monitored by MOTs were 2,699 accounting for 5.18% of the population in the project sites (2,699/52,095).

These screened MMPs were almost located along the border among project communes in Bu Gia Map National Forest where have a lot of unofficial border crossers, timber camp communities, and other revolving communities. 1,977 targeted people were tested for malaria. This number was achieved 73.25% of mobile migrant people (1,977/2,699). This work highlights how MOTs can target the previously unreached populations of MMPs to strengthen malaria surveillance and active case responses to reduce malaria transmission in Viet Nam.

A system of real-time data collection of malaria cases from VHWs and MOTs using mobile phone uploads was established. Border screening and tracking hard to reach communities is a useful approach to implement to identify imported cases; however, it is labor-intensive, and misses subjects crossing at unofficial borders due to limited working time of MOTs (5 days a month).

Positive cases in Binh Phuoc province are maintained for keeping track after receiving treatment due to no confirmed cases detected in targeted communes in Dak Ngo province, though these communes mainly have numerous transient timber camps moving in deep forests, and highly mobile border-crossers moving between regions and countries frequently. Future work will combine routine support from District health staff and expand the role of VHWs with motorbike provision for each MOT in order to not only to improve their quality outreach activities but also develop stronger Active Case Detection in the next phase of the project.

*Team members represent the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Hanoi, Viet Nam; Health Poverty Action, London, UK; and the Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia.

References

  • Kheang ST, Lin MA, et al. Malaria Case Detection Among Mobile Populations and Migrant Workers in Myanmar: Comparison of 3 Service Delivery Approaches. 2018
  • Shannon Takala-Harrison,a Christopher G. Jacob, et al. Independent Emergence of Artemisinin Resistance Mutations Among Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia. 2014.
  • Imwong M, Hien TT, et al. Spread of a single multidrug resistant malaria parasite lineage (PfPailin) to Vietnam. 2017.
  • Richard J Maude,corresponding author Chea Nguon, et al. Spatial and temporal epidemiology of clinical malaria in Cambodia 2004–2013. 2014.
  • Imwong M, Nguyen TN, et al.The epidemiology of subclinical malaria infections in South-East Asia: findings from cross-sectional surveys in Thailand–Myanmar border areas, Cambodia, and Vietnam. 2015.
  • Hannah Edwards, Sara E. Canavati, et al. Novel Cross-Border Approaches to Optimise Identification of Asymptomatic and Artemisinin-Resistant Plasmodium Infection in Mobile Populations Crossing Cambodian Borders. 2015.

Mapping to Integrate Filariasis and Onchocerciasis Control with Malaria Interventions

William R Brieger (wbriege1@jhu.edu) and Gilbert Burnham (gburnha1@jhu.edu) of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health presented ideas about mapping and integration of neglected tropical diseases and malaria interventions at the Malaria World Congress, Melbourne, Australia, July 2018

Overview: Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and Malaria share a common vector in sub-Saharan Africa. Mass Drug Administration (MDA) is a strategy that is common to both diseases. Where the diseases overlap there is the potential opportunity to coordinate both vector control and MDA to achieve synergy in program results. The example of Burkina Faso, supplemented with information from Ghana, serves as an example of what could be integrated and what actually happens.

Background: Thirty years ago then veterinary drug, ivermectin, was found effective in controlling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), specifically two human filarial diseases: onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis (LF). The drug manufacturer donates 300 million treatments annually to eliminate both diseases. Since then, annual community based mass drug administration (MDA) efforts have resulted in millions of treatments in endemic countries and great progress has been made toward elimination of transmission. Through observation and experimentation, ivermectin was found to kill malaria carrying mosquitoes when they bite people who have taken ivermectin making it a useful tool for vector control.

CHWs in Burkina Faso demonstrating how to measure height to determine ivermectin dosage

Community Health Workers’ Role: Current research is examining how dosing and timing of treatments may impact national malaria vector control efforts. Comparing maps between malaria and LF can be a starting point for adapting ivermectin MDAs for malaria vector control. Burkina Faso MDAs are operationalized by community health workers (CHWs) who are part of a national program that provides treatment for common illnesses and also conducts village level onchocerciasis and LF MDAs. Vector Control with Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets In most of rural Africa, malaria and lymphatic Filariasis are co-endemic and share the same anopheles mosquito vector.

However, that does not mean that there is a coordinated effort to plan distribution of LLINs despite the fact that the intervention meets the needs of both disease control efforts. The current NTD programs in Burkina Faso and Ghana focus on Preventive Chemotherapy (PCT) delivered through Mass Drug Administration (MDA). Vector Control is seen as essential in areas co-endemic with LF, Loa loa and Malaria – mapping helps identify priority areas for vector control.

Vector Control by Chance: In Ghana, the NTD/LF elimination program was unaware of the LLIN coverage data available in the NMCP housed in an adjacent building. This illustrates the lack of collaboration between the two programs. Thus where — and if — vector control benefits the reduction of both diseases, it is often by chance where LF is concerned.  The International NGO, The Carter Center, may be the only one that includes vector control as part of its programming for both malaria and LF in Nigeria. This practice should be replicated by other partners and country programs where possible.

Mass Drug Administration: MDA is the major strategy for control of five PCT diseases in the NTD program, and LF is one of those. Currently MDA anti-malarial drugs has been considered in limited situations in countries where there are areas that have very low transmission In the future countries may consider research that shows mosquitocidal effects of Onchocerciasis and LF MDAs with ivermectin. Otherwise for malaria, a special intervention called Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) is used in an MDA-like approach to reach young children in the African Sahel during high transmission months. In both cases, existing cadres of (usually volunteer) community health workers are the front line providers of MDA.

Burkina Faso LF Map from ESPEN: Mapping shows 10 of 70 health districts are currently doing LF MDA, though all have done it. Thus CHWs in all districts are experienced in ivermectin MDA. The malaria map shows that two-thirds of districts have a malaria incidence of 400/1000 or more while 14 have lower incidence. There is an overlap between current LF MDA districts and higher incidence malaria districts Both LF and Malaria Program Coverage can be seen to overlap in [program maps.

Ghana CHWs explain how they conduct MDA

Ghana Experiences: Ghana provides a contrasting example. There five regions in central Ghana that are mostly non-endemic for LF but do have moderate malaria transmission In the south two regions with former LF MDA activity overlap with higher malaria endemicity While four northern regions have lower malaria parasite prevalence, they do have current and recent LF MDAs Community Directed Distributors work with LF MDA in Ghana

Conclusions: Malaria elimination will need a mix of strategies to be successful. Therefore, it is not too early for malaria and NTD program managers, as well as their respective donors, to begin comparing maps to identify possibilities for adapting ivermectin MDAs for malaria vector control. Even though one endemic disease is nearing control or elimination, the infrastructure put in place to accomplish this can be mobilized for other disease control efforts – as long as we map where interventions and resources have been targeted.

Tanzania Malaria Indicator Survey, ITNs and the View of the Press

Take away messages by the Press sometimes need a bit of clarification. A recent report in The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) expressed that the author was ‘startled’ to mean from the recent Malaria Indicator Suvey (MIS/DHS 2017) that there is high malaria prevalence in regions that also have high insecticide treated bednet ownership and use, implying that nets might not be effective. Actually the preliminary Key Indicators Report showed the overlap between prevalence and nets but did not actually present statistical analysis comparing the two to show whether actual sleeping under the net is associated with prevalence one way or the other.

The reporter quoted Dr William Kisinza, director and chief researcher at the Amani Research Centre of the National Institute for Medical Research as saying “This shows that mosquito bed-nets aren’t the only solution in addressing malaria in Tanzania,” and while this is true, it should not be construed as meaning nets don’t work. Any national malaria strategy uses ITNs in combination with other interventions to have a comprehensive program, including indoor residual spraying, which is also mentioned in the new article.

Dr Kisinza was also quoted as saying, “In Kigoma and Mtwara, bed-nets are used in fishing. There’s a need for behavioural change, if the problem is to be effectively addressed.” This is a real problem but anecdotal. In order to make a clearer point it would be necessary to test the connection between net ownership and use and do a follow-up study to see if in fact those owning but not sleeping under the nets are practicing alternative net usage.

Actually key findings from the preliminary MIS report include the fact that while 78% of households have one ITN, only 45% have at least one for every two people. Hence it is not surprising that only 55% of children under the age of 5 and 62% of pregnant women reported sleeping under a net. These are important service gaps that must be addressed.  Certainly all countries need to monitor the effectiveness of nets and insecticide resistance.

Analysis of net use and malaria parasitaemia among the children can and should be presented to address the reporter’s questions as well as provide a clue to potential insecticide resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture and Promotion of Food Security Can Affect Malaria Transmission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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