Timely Data to Count

Since this year’s World Malaria Day continues last year’s emphasis on ‘counting malaria out’, we need to think about the availability of timely data to know if progress is being made toward universal coverage. The best bet for reliable and comprehensive information on coverage has often been the Malariaa Indicator Surveys. The challenge is that such national surveys are expensive, take time to analyze and do not give us the needed snapshot to help direct and redirect intervention.

Angola is a case in point. The last MIS was done in 2006. All coverage indicators – ITN use, ACT access and consumption and IPTp distribution were low. Since that time major donor input from the US President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund have help speed up intervention. We know challenges exist, especially from a logistical point of view, in getting services and commodities out to people, but at this point we cannot easily pinpoint areas that are in most need.

Another MIS is being planned for late 2010 or early 2011 in Angola, and this will certainly let us know how close we came to universal coverage. We know from experience that distribution of a commodity alone does not guarantee its use, but for the present we may have to rely on such distribution data as a proxy until the impact indicators can be measured.

Also it would help if all donors required and provided simply surveys as part of their grants – whether they be an oil company or a bilateral agency.  At least one could thereby learn more quickly on a province or district level what is working or not.

We cannot eliminate malaria unless we take counting seriously – in short without counting we will never know if we have reached our targets.

PS – we have been offline for the past couple weeks while our website is ‘migrating’ within the JHU system. We are still testing the result, hence this quick posting.

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