Malaria programs in sub-Saharan Africa are making some remarkable progress. For instance, the rate of malaria among Tanzanian children between the ages of six months and five years old was cut in half from 2008 to 2012, according to recent research unveiled at the Tanzania Malaria Control Forum in Dar es Salaam. The island of Zanzibar has also achieved significant improvement. Between 2002 and 2005, fatalities in children aged one through four decreased by 71%; in infants younger than one year old, fatalities dropped by 33%.
In addition, Eritrea, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia reported reduction rates of up to 50% in the amount of malaria cases and malaria related deaths, according to the Malaria Journal.
These successes have been credited to fighting malaria on several fronts, including scaling up bed nets, diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance. This integrated strategy is part of the WHO’s “Test. Treat. Track” strategy. Increased accessibility to Rapid Diagnostic Tests and Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy has been instrumental in helping to manage the burden of malaria. In Tanzania, more than 17 million insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to prevent people from being bitten by nocturnal mosquitoes while they are sleeping. The east African nation was also the first country to pilot and roll out SMS for Life, an award-winning program that utilizes SMS messages and electronic mapping technology to ensure accurate stock counts of malaria medications in public health facilities in rural areas. By enabling efficient stock management using mobile technology, it’s possible to greatly reduce stock-outs caused by inventory management challenges.
In Kenya, employer-based bednet programs reduced the amount of malaria cases in some regions by more than 80% and lowered the rate of hospital admissions by nearly 90%. Zambia reduced malaria deaths by half between 2000 and 2010 and 89% of pregnant women in the country received a minimum of one dose of preventive medication.
Despite these successes, lack of funding for sustainable programs still limits achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for malaria. The World Health Organization states that USD 5.1 billion in annual funding is necessary for malaria intervention programs, but only USD 2.3 billion is available. Despite this daunting gap in funding, many organizations are still trying to move malaria treatment and prevention programs forward.
Since 2003, the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development has been working with key stakeholders in Tanzania to improve access to quality healthcare, particularly for malaria, focusing on aligning patient needs and expectations with the healthcare system’s services and providers. The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) in Singapore conducts research to develop next generation malaria therapies. By taking preventive measures and having access to effective medications, African countries can continue to make progress toward malaria elimination.