The publication this week by African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) of progress reports of African nations toward controlling and eliminating malaria and other maternal and child health problems has been both enlightening and helpful for advocacy and planning.Â If one combines these data with reports by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) on progress towards country Roadmap targets, a good picture emerges of the steps needed to reduce malaria deaths by 2015.
The time frames of the two indices are different – RBM is looking at overcoming gaps laid out by national malaria programs in 2010, while ALMA – but they are close enough to highlight the main logistical, process and input challenges facing endemic countries. The ALMA scorecard does have one outcome indicator – operational coverage of long lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) – but one needs to consult surveys such as the Malaria Indicator Survey to get more accurate coverage data, and such surveys are scheduled less frequently.
Several key issues arise from these two reports.Â For example, the ALMA Scorecard shows that eight countries do not have a policy that enables community case management of malaria, a strategy that is essential for achieving universal and timely coverage of malaria treatment. Though not indicated clearly, such a policy should include the use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and the community level.
Sixteen countries do not have full funding for purchasing the RDTs they need. RDT supply problems also appear in the RBM Roadmap analysis. Eighteen countries lack full financing for their LLIN needs.Â Unfortunately, if not enough funding is available to achieve universal coverage now, what will happen in three years when most of the recently distributed nets may need replacing?
Of course there are hopeful signs. The Scorecard shows that ten countries have reduced malaria deaths by more than 50%, and another seven have made substantial progress. It is unfortunate that the remaining countries are left blank implying that there are inadequate data to make such calculations.Â We will have trouble eliminating malaria is our monitoring and evaluation systems cannot measure progress towards our goals.
Hopefully such tools as the Roadmap analysis and the Scorecard will spur some friendly competition among malaria endemic countries in Africa that will save more lives and boost national economies.