South Africa strengthens malaria information systems in move towards elimination

We recently suggested that malaria elimination efforts learn from guidelines and manuals developed for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis. Today at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting, a presentation from the South Africa National Department of Health and its partners outlined how they are “Strengthening Malaria Information Systems in South Africa: Moving Towards Elimination.”

rsa_by_provinces-sm.jpgThe presentation stressed that, “locally transmitted malaria cases have declined by 92% and malaria deaths have declined by 82% in 2010 as compared to 2000.” This serious drop in malaria cases is spurring the need recognize the transition from control strategies to efforts appropriate to the pre-elimination phase.

Currently malaria is endemic in only 3 provinces, Kwazulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, with over 90% of cases in the latter. Thyere is a lack of standardized malaria information across these three provinces, absence of timely notification and lack of information that could aid targeting of interventions.  The national program is addressing this by identifying seven key components of an information tracking system that focuses on –

  1. Rapid Diagnostic Tests
  2. Geographic Information System
  3. Parasitology
  4. Entomology
  5. Indoor Residual Spraying
  6. Case Investigation
  7. Notification

The three provinces have some but none has all of these embedded in a comprehensive and systematic information system that does more than track epidemics.  In addition there is emphasis on ensuring adequate human resources to undertake these tasks.

South Africa recognizes that political and financial commitment is needed in the country. There is a realistic expectation that the country cannot depend on donors to sustain their malaria information system.  Hopefully these efforts will also be adopted by the other front line malaria elimination target countries in Southern Africa.

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