By Dr. Mady Ba, Senegal National Control Program Manager; Philippe Guinot, PATH Senegal Country Manager; and Dr. Yakou Dièye, MACEPA Senior Technical Officer at PATH
Since 2005, Programme Nationale de Lute contre Le Paludisme (PNLP) and its partners have scaled-up medications and diagnostics availability and distributed over 7 million insecticide-treated bednets across Senegal with dramatic impact: from 2006 to 2013, mortality rates due to malaria dropped by 62 percent. Buoyed by these recent successes, eliminating malaria transmission altogether has become the clear next step for Senegal. Decreasing the number of people who get malaria is no longer enough; we want to continue to prioritize improving the health of our people by developing strategies to end the burden of the disease once and for all.
How will we achieve this? Efforts must aim to further drive down parasite infection through broad use of diagnostics and treatment, maintenance of high levels of coverage with bednets, and the use of advanced surveillance methods to track and treat the remaining cases of the disease. One of the first areas we are focusing on is the northern part of Senegal, specifically the district of Richard Toll. We chose this area for our initial elimination activities because of its strong previous experience in implementing complex health projects and a low malaria incidence rate of less than five malaria cases per 1,000 inhabitants. In Richard Toll we worked with private and public sector partners to establish areas that had zero malaria transmission—and are now aiming to gradually expand them until entire provinces are free from the disease.
Already we are beginning to see communities reaping the rewards of living in malaria-free areas. First and foremost, no malaria transmission means no more illnesses and deaths from the disease. Simply put, people that live in malaria-free communities live healthier and happier lives. But that isn’t all. Communities that have eliminated the threat of the disease are also more prosperous and financially better off: families and businesses alike no longer have to spend money on healthcare costs related to malaria. Employees no longer miss work because they or someone in their family has the disease. Businesses become more productive. Children will not have to stay home away from school, nor will they have to suffer lifelong disabilities that can occur from complicated malaria. Healthcare facilities can consequently be freed up to focus on other medical issues.
Best of all, we are developing a strategy to scale up this approach to the entire country. Our aim is to maximize local resources in order to channel all available resources to achieve our common goal of malaria elimination. Reaching such a goal will require the improvement in the quality of key proven malaria interventions like the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and proper management of cases with the use of rapid-reporting, diagnostic tests, and artemisinin-based combination therapies. It is critical that we also maintain our gains by implementing new interventions such as seasonal malaria chemoprevention and mass test and treat to accelerate our chances of success.
Now, Senegal is documenting its approach and progress as it makes steps towards achieving this ambitious goal of eliminating malaria. We encourage you to look the gallery we have compiled, Making malaria-free communities in Senegal, and listen to a few of the voices of the dedicated researchers, health workers, government officials, advocates, partners, and especially the communities at the frontlines of our fight. What makes Senegal unique is the strength of the partnership formed to support the national malaria program; together, we are working to make malaria history.