A model to end malaria

Wiping out disease using tools available now

Malaria is a devastating mosquito-borne disease that sickens millions of people and kills hundreds of thousands each year. Most of those affected are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Pregnant women, the elderly, and the chronically ill all are also particularly vulnerable.

In the last several years, advances in prevention and treatment have resulted in marked reductions in illness and death from malaria in Africa. Now it is time to aim for a more ambitious target: to end malaria in Africa altogether. We can eliminate malaria using existing tools and a focused strategy. The Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), a program at PATH, is charting the way toward this goal.

Effective approach to malaria control and elimination

In 2005, MACEPA began partnering with national governments and ministries of health in sub-Saharan Africa to control malaria. We supported national programs to rapidly deliver lifesaving tools across nations: insecticide-treated bednets, indoor spraying of insecticides, new diagnostics to find the disease earlier, and effective medicines to treat it.

The results have been dramatic. Countries using this approach have experienced significant decreases in malaria illness and death in just two to three years. Since 2000, rates of childhood death due to malaria have dropped by 20 percent in the countries that have adopted aggressive malaria control. An estimated 300,000 children were saved from dying from malaria in 2010 alone.

Countries that have achieved these kinds of results now have the potential to wipe out malaria entirely. MACEPA is developing an evidence-based framework to guide health officials through a comprehensive set of program interventions that can lead to elimination of the disease. Our efforts are focused on developing approaches to drive down rates of infection caused by parasites that carry malaria.

We can do this through widespread use of diagnostics and treatment, maintenance of high levels of coverage with bednets and indoor spraying, and adherence to advanced surveillance methods to track and treat the remaining cases of the disease. The innovative applications of these tools will have a major impact on reducing malaria transmission and the integration of new tools expected to be available soon, like vaccines, holds an even greater promise.

Data and advocacy to support the strategy

To be effective, this strategy requires a well-documented base of experience from national programs. We’re working to build systems and processes to improve access to and quality and consistency of data for decision-making. Countries with strong data systems can better track malaria infections and prioritize program action. They can build on information about coverage gaps and impact, information that can help inform policies and secure continued funding.

Working towards elimination also requires continued political commitment, sustained and predictable financing, and a higher level of local involvement than ever before. We must continue to build on investments in malaria control. Failure to do so will result in a rapid reversal of the positive effects we’ve seen, and resurgence in illness and death.

MACEPA is building evidence to establish global guidelines on standards of practice and to encourage donors and partners toward long-term support for malaria control and elimination efforts. We’re advocating for evidence-based planning and policy development at all levels, and supporting countries as they embark on plans to eliminate malaria.

Banner photo: PATH/David Jacobs.