Malaria Across the Border

Rwanda has been commended for progress made toward eliminating malaria. Just to the south, Burundi appears to be experiencing an upsurge of the disease. Can it be contained?

dscn2973-a2.JPGMSF reports that, “Burundi has been grappling with a serious increase of malaria patients since the start of the year. The MSF teams have been cooperating with Burundi authorities to fight the spread of the disease by treating patients and distributing mosquito nets to prevent new infections.”

Fortunately the Canadian Red Cross has been working in Burundi distributing bednets, but donor support for malaria control in Burundi has not kept up with that of Rwanda.
Rwanda with a population of 9.2 million, has benefited much more from international donor support. Rwanda is in its fifth year of funding from the US President’s Malaria Initiative  and has received Global Fund malaria grants three times of which $109.5 million has been disbursed and another $100 million is in the pipeline.
Burundi with a population of 7.8 million, has just begun to receive attention from USAID’s malaria efforts. Of a current $53 million Global Fund Malaria grant, Burundi has received $17 million. A new Round 9 grant for $60 million has yet to be signed.

Burundi’s Road Map to 2010 shows a gap of 2.5 million long lasting insecticide-treated nets, and nearly half a million doses of artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs. Rwanda has no gap in these commodities.

When moving toward malaria elimination, we need to plan on a regional basis, not just country by country. Neither infected mosquitoes more humans bearing malaria parasites respect borders. Countries may need to be their brother’s keeper in order to protect the gains they have made.

Fortunately the Southern African Development Community‘s malaria elimination strategy enshrines this philosophy of mutual help among neighbors.  Other regions should follow suit.

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