Surveillance, Monitoring and Evaluation as Rwanda Moves Towards Malaria Elimination

Rwanda’s First Malaria Forum has just concluded in Kigali, producing recommendations to help the country, which is already experiencing very low levels of malaria transmission, develop strategies for the path to malaria elimination. After a series of informative talks other countries in the region and international support organizations, working groups distilled the learning from the forum into suggestions for strategic planning. Below we present the deliberations of the Working Group on Surveillance, Monitoring and Evaluation. Group members included Irenee Umulisa, J. Bosco Ahoranayezu, John MacArthur, Arielle Mancuso, Aafje Rietveld, Eric Tongren, Anna Winters.

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Preamble: A paradigm change is necessary within the national malaria surveillance system in order to take Rwanda from the stage of malaria control to pre-elimination. Stratification (epidemiological, entomological and environmental) will be used as the basis for applying different programme approaches in the different parts in the country, including surveillance approaches. In high burden strata, the quality of malaria control surveillance will be optimized. In low endemic strata, WHO recommended elimination surveillance approaches will be piloted and gradually introduced to field-try forms & procedures and build systems capacity.

Goals and Vision: By 2017, every febrile patient on the Rwandan territory will visit a health facility within 48 hours for diagnosis and treatment. Under 5s will be treated at community level within 24 hours. A microscopy and RDT quality assurance system (including external quality control) will be in place, ensuring reliable diagnosis at all diagnostic facilities. Every malaria case diagnosed with RDT and treated at community level will be reported to the health center level within 24 hours, accompanied by a microscopy slide for confirmation of diagnosis.

All malaria cases will be reported into one centralized HMIS, irrespective of the health providers who diagnosed and treated them (public, private, community, army, etc.) and irrespective of the way they were detected (ACD, PCD, surveys).

Health centers in low and moderate malaria burden strata will carry out “enhanced malaria surveillance” allowing foci investigation and classification. Health centers in endemic areas will forward line-listings of patients (ideally also with information about recent travel) to the district level with copy to the central level on weekly basis. Central level will compile from these data weekly updated mapping by village level and track cases against epidemic thresholds.

Strategic objectives and action points:

By 2012, update the stratification map of Rwanda’s malaria burden by including data from HMIS, SIS-COM and any other sources of malaria patient data that may be available. The objective is to be all-inclusive: in malaria elimination every case counts. A more in-depth stratification using entomological and environmental variables and intervention coverage will follow.

  • Merge SIS-COM (community) data collection with existing HMI
  • Use the map to identify 3-4 zones for stratification of surveillance and intervention methods based upon malaria burden.

By 2013, develop/update the surveillance plan to direct the MOH malaria surveillance strategies over the coming 5 years within the changing epidemiological settings, with a view to (a) attain malaria pre-elimination programme status in low and moderate burden strata by 2017; and (b) maintain and improve upon the current control achievements in higher burden strata.

  • Improve and coordinate data management and timeliness.
  • Include a plan for human resources necessary to undertake enhanced surveillance.
  • Include a timeline to achieve strategic objectives and action points.

By 2014, set up the systems to enable and ensure that all suspected malaria cases (100%) are diagnostically confirmed using available tools and in a timely fashion within both public and private clinics.

  • Develop (guided by OR) for each strata a clear case definition of a suspected malaria case who should be tested, ranging from a broad definition (fever) in highly endemic areas to a more restricted definition (perhaps including a travel history or additional symptoms) in low endemic areas. Communicate these definitions to all health care providers and the public in the various strata. The purpose is to ensure that every potential malaria case is promptly tested, without unduly overburdening the health workers in low endemic areas.
  • Monitor the use of antimalarials by various health facilities against the numbers of cases diagnosed and reported.

By 2015, pilot “enhanced malaria surveillance” in 1-3 low endemic districts

  • In low and moderate burden areas, begin line listing all confirmed malaria cases including travel history and household location with the goal to map cases (2015-2017). Focus initial line listing and case mapping within Kigali or another accessible low burden district (2013).
  • By 2014, engage the private sector physicians in Kigali for cooperation in malaria surveillance activities (working with the Rwanda medical association). Enforce full cooperation of the private sector by 2017. Restrict availability of antimalarial medicines to registered facilities with access to diagnostic capacity.
  • In low and moderate burden areas, begin collecting weekly malaria data at the health facility level.
  • Gradually include immediate notification and due programme follow up (investigation, classification) of cases detected, starting with one district where this seems doable.
  • Explore business/private coalitions to support a longer term vision of a malaria-free Kigali / tourism areas.

By 2015, pilot line listing in one endemic district, increasing to all endemic districts by 2017

  • Integrate training and data management into existing community health worker programs.
  • Develop and deploy a system for active case detection (ACD) as part of case investigation at the community level.
  • Map all confirmed cases which are passively and actively detected.
  • Develop epidemic thresholds for comparison against weekly case loads.

By 2013, review and start to address the factors that contribute to malaria mortality in Rwanda.

  • Conduct death audits for all reported malaria cases that occurred in 2012. The purpose is to identify risk factors for delays in treatment / inadequate treatment that can be addressed by NMCP programme interventions. Use this study to strengthen collaboration of the NMCP with the national school of public health (or equivalent) by engaging a team of university students / scientists in the study.
  • Explore possibilities for increasing the use of pre-referral treatment with rectal artesunate, based on an understanding of the barriers and behaviours for accessing pre-referral treatment.
  • By 2015, carry out death audits for all reported malaria deaths as they occur, to adjust and target programme interventions.

Continue drug and insecticide resistance monitoring to guide drug and insecticide policies.

Recommendations:

  • By 2014, initiate “enhanced malaria surveillance” following WHO recommended strategies for the elimination phase in 1 low endemic district, increasing to 3 districts by 2015 and all low-endemic districts by 2017. This includes investigation, classification and mapping of cases and transmission foci.
  • By 2015, institute line listing in one endemic district, increasing to all endemic districts by 2017.
  • Encourage and facilitate information sharing among all partners in malaria control.
  • Use available resources in a manner that allows continued high quality surveillance in endemic areas combined with gradual introduction of elimination approaches in low endemic districts. Adopt the philosophy of first building up enhanced surveillance systems and then expanding the system as resources and malaria burdens allow.
  • Consider including Kigali within the first pilot districts for enhanced surveillance, given the low prevalence and focalized transmission patterns, and to encourage political will.
  • Conduct death audits in order to measure progress towards the goal of zero malaria deaths.

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