Progress, Obstacles and Advocacy in Malaria Programs

be-that-voice-2.jpgPBS Reporter Ray Suarez recently visited Bagamoyo, Tanzania, a former colonial outpost for the Omani Arabs, the Germans and the British.  Evidence of this past is crumbling, and the present finds poor people confronted with malaria.  Ironically Bagamoyo is at the forefront of work to find a malaria vaccine.

Suarez found that even though the vaccine is not yet ready and poverty pervades, the people are benefiting from national malaria control interventions.  He documented bednet use, indoor residual spraying activities and judicious use of malaria treatment combined with appropriate diagnostics.

Suarez describes the appropriate steps along the pathway to malaria elimination. We should fully implement those interventions we have to bring down mortality. Then we can implement the new technologies like vaccines when them come on line to consolidate gains and move toward elimination.

Botswana, not necessarily considered a malaria hotspot with only 14,000 cases reported last year, still needs to step up to the plate and eliminate its own share of the disease.  At a recent conference the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Health stressed the importance of bringing the public along. “He explained that implementing malaria control strategies is complex because it does not just dependent on how much they can deliver, but mainly on the acceptance by the communities. He explained that to address the obstacles, they have developed an advocacy and communication strategy to strengthen health education and community mobilisation.”

Advocacy is also at the forefront in Ghana. “Participants at a malaria advocacy forum at Apam in the Gomoa West District have appealed to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to restore the one per cent contribution from the District Assemblies Common fund for malaria control initiatives in the districts.”

For the past three year the VOICES malaria advocacy program has been organizing district advocacy teams in Ghana so that the local people develop their own political voice to attack one of the most serious threats to their health and welfare. Ghana’s district advocacy guide is available online for people in other districts throughout endemic countries to use.

The experience in Ghana shows that it is not enough to have well formulated national policies and programs. These must be supported and implemented at the district and community level, so that like the people of Bagamoyo, everyone has access to the appropriate malaria control services they need.

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