Malawi – determined to control malaria

Malawi – determined to control malaria

The Malawian government is now at a critical time in its plans to control malaria. The disease remains a significant public health burden in the country, with around 4.5 million cases every year for its population of 13 million. With this in mind, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is currently undertaking a thorough review of its malaria strategic plan – in place since 2005 – with the aim of developing a strengthened plan for the coming 5 years.

Recognizing that scaling-up access to affordable antimalarial medicines will be vital to progress, the MoH has chosen to collaborate with MMV on a range of initiatives to turn the tide against malaria. A Letter of Intent, to establish how we can best work together, has just been signed by the Malawi Permanent Secretary for Health.

MMV is proud to partner with Malawi on a number of important initiatives.To provide essential input into the strategy review, MMV has supported the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in the implementation of Malawi’s first Malaria Indicator Survey that gives an overview of the current situation across the country. Together with a thorough programme review of the last 5 years’ activities, this information will be invaluable as the MoH, with support from MMV, devise their next strategic plan.

One of the key issues facing the NMCP is to ensure the needs of children are catered for. Malawi is looking to adopt the first high-quality paediatric ACT, Coartem® Dispersible, developed especially for children by MMV and Novartis, into its national protocol. If this happens, we will be working with the MoH to expand integrated training of healthcare workers in the use of this new product.

The next step will be to expand access to malaria treatment at community level, to ensure that mothers can access treatment as rapidly as possible. In many areas rapid diagnostic tests are simply not available, but given that malaria can kill swiftly in the absence of treatment – 24 h following symptom onset – we cannot afford to take risks and so, in the first instance, ACTs must be made available. In addition to supporting the availability and correct use of Coartem Dispersible in health facilities, MMV will also support the MoH to expand Malawi’s Community Case Management programme.

The NMCP and MMV will continue to define specific areas of partnership at the end of 2010, once their new strategic plan is implemented.