MIM2013 is at its half-way mark. Ironically the issue of the number, the quality and the location of human resource capacity for malaria programming has not been explicitly addressed in the program.
Sure, individual speakers had talked a bit about personnel needed for vector control, community case management, diagnostics, among others, but few specific session – symposium, plenary or parallel paper presentations- were titled in a way that focused conclusively about the people who are needed to achieve these program tasks and goals. There were even two parallel sessions on health systems strengthening, but these addressed such topics as changing prescribing practices, vaccines and treatment seeking.
One looked forward to human resource issues being raised in a session that addressed task shifting in malaria prescribing and in capacity for designing clinical trials for vaccines. This was overwhelmed by the plethora of presentations on vector issues that did not include a specific presentation on adequacy and skills of entomologists in endemic countries.
Fifteen years ago the Roll Back Malaria partnership recognized that malaria targets could not b achieved unless malaria programming went hand-in-hand with health systems strengthening. Malaria services were seen as an integral part of basic primary health care and the people, staff and volunteers who provided PHC.
Conference speakers recognize the financial and logistical factors that make coverage, let alone achieving a complete cure and complete prevention as described by Dr Magill challenging. Yet this is not enough. Who are the people who will provide these complete interventions, how will they be trained, and where will they be posted?
One MIM conference participant observed that conference panels were dominated by too many older, non-African scientists. This reflects either an oversight by conference planners of the reality that we lack enough African health and research personnel to take the lead in eliminating malaria. We are particularly concerned for the special people and skills needed to apply appropriate surveillance and lead us to malaria elimination.
It will be too late to address these human resources issues by the next MIM conference. Hopefully in the meantime countries will plug into the ongoing moves to strengthen human resources for health and ensure that they have enough well trained people to diagnose disease, manage cases, prevent transmission and track malaria, This needs to be addressed through both in-service and basic pre-service training programs.