WHO recognizes national efforts towards Malaria elimination

Dar es Salaam, 26-27 February 2018: Malaria remains one of the major threats to public health and economic development in Africa. Globally, it is estimated that 216 million cases of malaria occurred in 2016, with Africa bearing the brunt of this burden. In Tanzania, Malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in children under 5 and pregnant women. Malaria is also the leading cause of outpatients, inpatients, and admissions of children less than five years of age at health facilities.

Malaria control spans over decades in Tanzania. The largest successes have been achieved in the last decade with national scale up of new preventive strategies and improved quality and access to testing and treatment. Several global initiatives have shaped malaria control strategies over the years, including the Millennium Development Goals and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

As a result of the malaria control interventions, Tanzania has witnessed a major drop in under-five mortality from 112/1,000 in 2005 to 67/1,000 in 2016. Between 2008 and 2017, the trend of malaria in Tanzania also shows a decline in morbidity from 18 million cases per annum to 5.5 million. An estimated 60,000 child deaths are averted annually in the country as a direct impact of two core interventions, increased access to Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) and improved access and availability of quality assured Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapies (ACTs).

Despite these notable achievements, the fight is far from over. More than 93% of the Tanzanian population remains at risk of malaria. Malaria is still one of the most important obstacles to economic development and foreign investment in Tanzania.

In this context, the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute (STPH) and WHO convened a consultative meeting of experts to critically review national strategies in place to achieve Malaria elimination by 2030.

Participants constitute experts from the multilateral organizations including WHO/GMP, AFRO and the WHO Country Office, GFATM – Geneva, bilateral organizations – President’s Malaria Initiative, CDS – Atlanta, STPH – Switzerland, John Hopkins University, national health institutions – National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Ifakara Health Institute (IHI), Muhimbili University of Health Alliances and Sciences, Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), CHAI, the Programme manager from the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Programme (ZAMEP) and case management officer from the Zambia Malaria Control Programme and the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).

The meeting was officiated by the Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Mohammed Bakari Kambi who began by welcoming international experts that travelled from afar and congratulated NMCP, WHO and STPH for convening this consultative meeting in a timely manner. He also acknowledged the NMCP team for the progress made so far in Malaria control and highlighted key achievements such as the dramatic decrease in the malaria prevalence, the successful use of LLINs; scale up of IRS and increase in consumption of ACT.

On behalf of Dr. Matthieu Kamwa, WR Tanzania, Dr. Ritha Njau delivered remarks highlighting the global and regional malaria trends as well as the targets set out in the Global Technical Strategy (GTS). She mentioned some of the challenges impeding endemic countries to stay on track and advance towards elimination to include “the lack of sustainable and predictable international and domestic funding; risks posed by conflict in malaria endemic zones; anomalous climate patterns; emergence of parasite resistance to antimalarial medicines and mosquito resistance to insecticide”.

On behalf of the WR, she then presented an Award to the Ministry of Health in recognition of the achievements made in malaria control and strong government leadership shown in mobilizing domestic and external resources to support the fight against malaria. WHO also acknowledged the high level visit of a powerful delegation to Tanzania a decade ago consisting of; the DG of WHO, RD of WHO/AFRO, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and the President of the United Health Programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to celebrate achievements in malaria control in the country. The accolade was received by the Chief Medical Officer on behalf of the Minister of Health who thanked WHO for recognizing the national efforts in the fight against malaria and committed to present it to the high level leadership.

For two days, experts will critically discuss the strategic questions:

  • Are the current strategic approaches and interviews sufficient to achieve malaria elimination by 2030?
  • Is it timely to set up and deploy appropriate intervention packages in defines areas/population according to the perceived risk of malaria

The global thrust towards malaria elimination requires countries to implement interventions that interrupt local transmission of a specified malaria parasite species within a defined geographic area. The rate of progress towards elimination depends on the strength of the national health system, the level of investment in malaria control and a number of other factors, including biological determinants; the environment; and the social, demographic, political and economic realities of a particular country.