Update on the malaria elimination landscape in Africa: Recent awards, ongoing challenges, new research, and increased financing
According to the World Malaria Report 2015, malaria mortality rates in Africa have fallen by 66 percent since 2000. In recognition of this incredible progress, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) presented its annual Awards for Excellence to 13 African countries that have demonstrated “commitment, innovation and progress in the fight against malaria.” Eliminating countries were well-represented among the recipients and included Botswana, Cape Verde, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Swaziland. Together with Eritrea and Rwanda, these eliminating countries were recognized for achieving the Millennium Development Goal 6 target for malaria.
Africa’s progress in driving down malaria since 2000 is remarkably demonstrated in country-specific declines in malaria cases (center column). However, these eliminating countries face ongoing challenges in sustaining progress (right column), and continued vigilance and support is required to achieve national elimination goals.
% change in malaria cases from 2000-2014
% change in malaria cases from 2013-2014
Data source: World Malaria Report 2015
For example, Namibia’s commitment to fighting malaria has resulted in a 96% decline in malaria cases since the year 2000. But malaria outbreaks in recent years have reminded the country that malaria is still a major public health concern and that a great deal of work remains. To advance Namibia’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2020, seven public health partners, including the MEI, came together in April 2014 to establish the Namibia Malaria Elimination Research Partnership (NAMEP). NAMEP is currently collaborating with Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services to test new strategies in the fight against malaria. This research builds off previous work to strengthen malaria surveillance and aims to assess strategies to investigate, test for, and treat malaria. Evidence from this research will inform policy and practice to further reduce malaria cases and deaths in Namibia, southern Africa, and around the world.
This kind of in-country operational research is crucial for determining the most effective tools and strategies to eliminate malaria and relies on sustained financing for malaria. In an exciting development for São Tomé and Príncipe, a new financing agreement has been reached between the country’s UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund. According to a recent AllAfrica article, “the $6 million grant will focus on increasing detection of malaria cases, broadening access to prevention methods like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying, and treating new cases. It will also strengthen the national epidemiological and entomological surveillance systems so that robust responses are in place when the country enters the final elimination phase of the disease.”
Taken together, these developments demonstrate that many African countries and their partners are committed to reducing malaria cases and deaths in a new era of the Sustainable Development Goals.