By Fara Ndiaye
Regional Manager for West Africa, Speak Up Africa*
Senegal has made considerable progress in terms of reducing malaria incidence with a drastic 66 percent drop in malaria mortality and morbidity rates from 2006 to 2009. Thanks to a strong and ambitious national strategy supported by both internal and external partners, Senegal implemented all proven control strategies, including mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying, and use of artemisinin-based combination therapies with confirmed malaria cases.
The National Malaria Control Program is now well on its way to pre-elimination and elimination of the disease and stresses the importance of having a thorough surveillance system. Monitoring current interventions and ensuring accurate data reporting of new cases is essential for the country to maintain its gains. In partnership with MACEPA, the National Malaria Control Program decided to pilot a “Mass Screen and Treat” campaign in areas where malaria transmission is still high with an incidence of 15 malaria cases per 1,000 or more residents. This is a first for the country.
The project aims to reduce the local transmission of the disease by undertaking mass testing campaigns and treating all positive cases before the rainy season—the peak season for malaria transmission. The systematic identification and treatment of infections—even the asymptomatic cases—should reduce the parasite reservoir. Asymptomatic carriers do not seek treatment for infection, and therefore become a reservoir for the parasite. These carriers pose a serious threat to countries moving toward elimination.
In order to ensure the community’s commitment to the new program, opinion leaders and local authorities were all involved in the planning process.
“I am confident the initiative will be well-received by our community. They have seen the positive impact the mass distribution of insecticide-treated nets has had on our daily lives. As a village leader, I will do everything in my power to make sure we communicate properly around this upcoming campaign,” said Khalidou Ka, village council member.
The three-year pilot project will launch these “Mass Screen and Treat” campaigns twice a year with the objective of reducing disease transmission to less than five malaria cases per 1,000 residents and finally reaching the country’s elimination goal.
*Speak Up Africa is a Dakar-based health communications and advocacy organization whose goal is to engage all sectors of African society in the fight to eliminate malaria.