Off-Road in Uganda

Uganda’s 2010 Roll Back Malaria Roadmap seemed reassuring.  Apparently 2.7m nets were already in place by late 2009, and supposedly a supply of another 18m long lasting nets (or at least the funding) was ready for achieving universal coverage by December 2010.

Assessment of Uganda’s Roadmap progress credited the country with achieving procurement of these nets. It seems odd therefore that the 2011 Roadmap indicates that 6.4m nets are in place and 10.4m need to be distributed in 2011. What’s going on?

staying-on-the-road.jpgA new study by Carla Proietti and colleagues provides some answers. Not only do they document continued high transmission in the northern part of Uganda (polymerase chain reaction rate of 72% in children below five year of age), a situation that threatens control efforts by neighbors, but they also identify plausible reasons for the lag.

The researchers politely suggest that, “The failure to reduce the burden of malaria could reflect sub-optimal implementation of malaria control measures.” They also explained that, “Malaria control efforts in Apac (sub-county) were not reliably monitored in the last decade and affected by political unrest in preceding years.”

Stockouts of anti-malarial ACTs was also listed as a problem. It should be recalled a few years ago that, “The Global Fund has decided to suspend its five grants to Uganda because there is evidence of serious mismanagement by the Project Management Unit (PMU) for Global Fund grants in Uganda.” Although the programs have resumed, satisfactory settlement of the problem was not achieved.

In light of this study Childsurvival.net warns us not to let successes in recent years blind us to reality. “Those who believe that Africa is within shooting distance of malaria elimination may wish to reconsider their position after reading this article (Proietti et al.). One should qualify this Ugandan article in several ways: 1) Local insurgency in the area under consideration, 2) Hiccoughs with the GF over misappropriation of resources, 3) Autocratic gerontocracy at the national level. Unfortunately, these three factors are not peculiar to Uganda.”

As mentioned yesterday, Roadmaps are a good tool to help us plan for malaria control and elimination – but we must stay on the road for them to work.

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