The Sixth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Malaria Conference which took place in Durban, South Africa, 6-11 October 2013, showcased a variety of encouraging initiatives, findings and proposals in the fight against Malaria. MIM is the world’s largest gathering of malaria experts and the eradication of the disease that kills some 66,000 people each year was discussed following the progress so far achieved by various effective measures.

“Large-scale vector control coverage in Africa has greatly reduced the number of deaths and transmission,” said Jo Lines, such that “we can start turning our attention to the longer-term and think about what is needed to win the war.” Jo Lines is a malaria expert with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who previously led the Vector Control Unit of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Program.

Lines pointed out the difficulties faced in meeting the costs of current eradication measures, some of which prove ineffective or counterproductive, with a “radically changing” malaria transmission pattern. A better understanding of the disease’s transmission and its surveillance is crucial to eliminating malaria without the risk of it re-establishing itself. Also, an abstract by Chistopher Plowe with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, presented vaccines as essential to malaria elimination.

Some of the presentations featured at the conference were South Africa’s intensive malaria surveillance program, which includes a website that is constantly updated with an outbreak alert system and an mapping program, depicting malaria cases down to the local level. Although costly and labour-intensive, such a system could be essential in reducing malaria to “less than one case per one thousand population at risk.” as was reported in some nine districts in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Namibia and Angola’s “Cross Border Malaria Initiative” noted that in their program, both areas targeted on the border between Namibia and Angola achieved a significant reduction in malaria. This shows that “cross-border work is both critical to elimination of malaria and possible despite (involving) different national governments with language and cultural differences,”

Other contributions included sustainable solutions such as “simply wearing mosquito-repellent anklets” and “lining interior doors with a mesh fabric treated with a slow-releasing insecticide” as safe, effective and potentially inexpensive forms of long-lasting malaria control. 

The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) (www.mimalaria.org/eng/), launched in Dakar, Senegal in 1997, is an international alliance of organizations and individuals seeking to maximize the impact of scientific research against malaria in Africa to ensure that research findings yield practical health benefits. The MIM conference in Durban follows successful conferences held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in November 2005, and in Nairobi in October 2009. The MIM Secretariat is currently hosted by the Biotechnology Centre of the University of Yaoundé I/Amsterdam Medical Centre.

Jotham Muriu Njoroge has a Bachelors degree in Architecture from the University of Nairobi. He is currently studying an undergraduate degree at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome.