By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow
April 25 was World Malaria Day, and groups around the world marked the day with celebrations of the outstanding achievements made in the effort to end malaria. “If you look at the malaria landscape over the last 15 years, most African countries have made substantial gains and reduced the burden of infections by 40 percent and deaths by 60 percent,” says Kesete Admasu, chief executive officer of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to End Malaria. However, according to the 2017 World Malaria Report, there were 5 million more cases in 2016 than the year prior.
The theme of this World Malaria Day was “Are we ready to beat malaria?” and many leaders, programs, and partners answered by announcing renewed commitments, noting that although ending malaria is an ambitious goal it is also achievable.
Below, check out the celebrations in countries where MACEPA works.
World Malaria Day was commemorated in Ethiopia with a range of events in Hawasa City this year. Over 150 participants, consisting of malaria experts, policymakers, researchers, professors, programmers, senior malaria professionals, journalists, and communities drawn from all corners of the country came together to demonstrate their commitment to ending malaria for good.
Pictured above: At a program review meeting in Hawassa, Ethiopia, the National Malaria Control Program and partners presented and discussed achievements and challenges in the fight against malaria locally. The meeting helped to renew the commitment of all parties involved.
Pictured above (left): Jara Kebele in Ethiopia has traditionally been a malaria hotspot, but in the last two years less than five cases have been reported, and in the last nine months the kebele did not report a single case! Here, Dr. Abraham Alaro, head of Ethiopia’s Southern Nation Nationalities and People Regional Health Bureau, welcomes guests to the World Malaria Day event celebrating Jara’s progress.
Pictured above (right): Here, a health extension worker presents the kebele’s progress at a World Malaria Day visit celebrating the Jara Kebele’s success.
The main World Malaria Day event in Ethiopia was held in Hawassa Stadium with entertainment that included the federal police marching band, cultural dancing and musical performances, songs by schoolchildren, question and answer contests for kids, and sports competitions including soccer and footraces. Attendees of the WMD event could also opt to participate in a “Test and Treat” event hosted by PATH MACEPA, in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health.
Certificates of recognition and awards presented to senior and retired malaria professionals who made significant contributions in the fight against malaria in the region; and to partners who have contributed to the national malaria prevention and control program and winners of the various contest groups. The trophies and other awards were handed over by Dr. Tsigereda Kifle, Deputy Director General of EPHI, Mr. Aknaw Kawza, Deputy Head of the SNNPR Regional Health Bureau, and Mrs. Hiwot Solomon, National Malaria Control and Elimination Program Team Leader.
Representatives from the Senegal’s malaria program (Programme National de Lutte Contre le Paludisme), partners, community champions, school children, and more attended World Malaria Day celebrations in Senegal this year. Over 1,500 were in attendance for the festivities over the weekend!
During the ceremony, Minister of Health Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr launched PACTE (Paludisme A’ttaqué à léchelle des Communautés territoires Emergents), a new strategy to increase community engagement by daily action. He also reaffirmed Senegal’s commitment to eliminate malaria by 2030 during the ceremony.
Pictured below: The PNLP leader (left) accepts an award from Sarr (right).
Said PNLP coordinator Doudou Sene: “Malaria is still in five regions and its elimination is very possible before 2030. It is necessary to continue the fight to sensitize more of the population on the behaviors to face the disease.”
In Seattle, a Lunch & Learn panel was held at PATH headquarters with several malaria leaders across the portfolio. PATH’s Jeff Bernson, Gonzalo Domingo, Ashley Birkett, and Kammerle Schneider shared highlights from some momentous events in malaria held earlier this month: the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria and Malaria Summit in Dakar and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
During its World Malaria Day celebrations, Zambia embraced its commitment to eliminating malaria by 2021. Along with traditional dances, parades, and music, the World Malaria Day event hosted in Kabwe included an exhibition tent in which various organizations and partners presented their innovative tools and strategies for ending the disease in Zambia. Along with many representatives from the National Malaria Elimination Centre and government, Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya toured the exhibits and engaged with malaria partners about their work.
During the ceremony, speeches from the USAID mission director, representatives from the UN/WHO, the minister of health, and others applauded the massive role that Zambia has played in eliminating malaria in the region and remarked on the need for sustained commitment going forward. The minister also unveiled four new strategic documents (the National Communications Strategy for Malaria Elimination, the Business Plan for Malaria Elimination, Guidelines for Malaria Diagnostics and Treatment, and the Insecticide-treated Net Guidelines) and presented awards for high performing districts in the region.
In the news
An article in Time Magazine reviews the three things the world needs to do in order to “make malaria a memory”: (1) develop and apply new mapping technologies, (2) bring together unusual funding partners to innovate, and (3) target interventions to the places most at risk of malaria.
Dr. Yakou Dieye, the scientific coordinator of PATH MACEPA Senegal made The New York Times this week. The article describes how partnerships between the government, PATH, and the Senegalese Sugar Company have resulted in a significant decrease in malaria. The company saw a sharp fall in absenteeism and in the town of Richard Toll there were fewer than 200 malaria cases in 2015, down from more than 1,300 in 2012.
Also from The New York Times this World Malaria Day was a photo essay from Nicholas Kristof and Jessia Ma. Can you guess what the deadliest animal in the world is?
Harald Nusser, head of Novartis Social Business, discusses the next chapter of malaria elimination in Project Syndicate. Nusser argues that we need to arm ourselves against the rising threat of drug and insecticide resistance by investing in research and development for next-generation antimalarial treatments. This comes after Novartis announced it will invest over $100 million in antimalarial R&D over the next five years, to help contain emerging resistant strains of the disease. For more from Novartis, check out CEO Vas Narasimhan’s piece in The Wall Street Journal or an interview in Devex with David Hughes, senior global program head of anti-infectives at Novartis.
With more than an estimated 406,000 cases in 2017, crisis-ridden Venezuela is seeing the largest global increase of malaria—69 percent compared to the year before. “In the Americas, it’s not just Venezuela. We’re actually reporting increases in a number of other countries. Venezuela, yes this is a significant concern, malaria is increasing and it’s increasing in a very worrying way,” said Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Program. (Reuters)
For more from Pedro Alonso, check out this interview in Devex about rearming ourselves for the next chapter in the malaria fight.
What’s going on at the Thai-Myanmar border? A lot. Check out this photo essay by physician Alex Kumar who visited a research site where genetic mutations in the parasite causing the disease have rendered treatment ineffective. A recent study in Eastern Burma published in The Lancet suggests that dosing whole populations in malaria “hotspots” regardless of whether people have symptoms or are healthy has proven effective in tackling the disease in Southeast Asia. Researchers say that this strategy could be one way to outpace the spread of drug resistant malaria. (The Guardian)
Most African countries have made substantial progress in combating malaria, but the continent’s malaria efforts remain heavily reliant on donors. Malaria drains Africa of an estimated $12 billion a year, and $24.5 billion in total is still needed to fight the disease. (Deutsche Welle)
The plant-based production of artemisinin sometimes fails to meet demand as the shrub just doesn’t produce enough of the needed chemical in its leaves. Research published in Molecular Plant shows that genetically modifying the plant to produce higher levels of artemisinin could help meet global demand for the malaria drug. (BBC)
“Raise a G&T to fight Malaria” is the slogan for a campaign by Fever Tree, a tonic producer. The explanation: “the quinine that gives tonic water its gentle bitterness was also an important anti-malarial ingredient, used for centuries to ward off this deadly disease.” Of course, the campaign does not suggest replacing anti-malaria tablets with gin and tonic but instead encourages gin and tonic drinkers to share their pictures on Instagram or Twitter (using the tag @FeverTreeMixers and hashtag #MalariaMustDie). Fever Tree pledges to donate £5 to Malaria No More UK for each photo posted. (Forbes)
Want to read more about Zambia’s path to malaria elimination? Check out this article in the WHO Bulletin by Sam Loewenburg.