Can we keep our momentum going?

The article “Malaria in Africa: progress and prospects in the decade since the Abuja declaration” by Robert W. Snow and Kevin Marsh makes me feel excited about the collaborations between the international Health community and developing African nations in the fight against Malaria. As the topic of the article implies, a substantial amount of success has been made in reducing the number of people who die from Malaria in Africa. In 2009, the Global fund increased funding for Malaria initiatives to the amount of 5.3 billion – about 75% of all external financing according to the article. “The new funds have been used to support a fairly consistent set of priority interventions across most African countries, including use of insecticide-treated nets, selective use of indoor residual house spraying, reduction of maternal and neonatal consequences of infection during pregnancy, replacement of failing drugs with Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), and improvement of diagnostic capacities at the point of care with rapid tests.

 

Health headlines in various African countries are also aggressively discussing ways in which the above-mentioned interventions are being implemented especially since they have Millennium development goals to achieve. In Nigeria for instance, the Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu directed doctors to phase out Chloroquine as a means for treating Malaria, and has asked them to start using ACT treatments instead. Sierra Leone also kicked off a health campaign designed to bring them closer to their Roll Back Malaria 2010 Millennium development goals. Malaria is getting attention in the international health community, and this attention is keeping African countries focused on implementing Malaria interventions especially since they also have to account for funds they receive from foreign aid. The big question is can we keep this momentum going?

 

I remember growing up in Nigeria and being afflicted with Malaria. Everyone knew chloroquine was your only hope against Malaria. Most of us freaked out at the thought of taking it because the side effect of chloroquine was an uncontrollable itch that made one consider suffering through the illness without taking any medication. Fast forward to 2010 – chloroquine is no longer an option for curing Malaria since populations are immune to the drug. If you ask me, I say change is taking place and progress has definitely been made. The big question again is can we keep this momentum going?

 

Evidence seen in Zanzibar where there have already achieved “low parasite prevalence” and considerable reduction in the incidence of Malaria show that “active detection of all new cases would be difficult and would not be cost effective over the next 25 years; overall elimination would be more expensive than maintaining sustained control.” Translation – we still have work to do. Snow and Marsh believe that based on current practices, Malaria can controlled at the very least. Again I ask the question can we keep our momentum going? I hope so.

 

Donor fatigue,” and shifting our focus to other diseases could make the global health community lose the momentum we have going on controlling Malaria but we must continue to work together –Research groups,  governments and the international community alike to have a fighting chance against Malaria.We must learn from lessons of the past and ensure that we act fast before afflicted populations develop immunity to the new therapies being implemented. While it is clear that complete eradication cannot be achieved with the level of resources invested in the fight against Malaria at this time, controlling the disease is still the first step to the greater goal of eradication. The global health community is due for another successful eradication of a disease. If we keep up our momentum, It can be Malaria.

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