Control and elimination of Malaria amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
Cape Town | Controlling and eliminating Malaria amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, remains critical for the health of southern Africa – a matter that will top the agenda at the 7th Malaria Research Conference that is currently underway.
Taking place from 2 – 4 August 2022, the virtual gathering is hosted by the South African Medical Research Council Malaria Research Group (MRG) in collaboration with the National Department of Health under theme "Control and Elimination amidst the Covid-19 pandemic" with both scientific and posters sessions dedicated to this topic.
Although the primary objective of the gathering is to create a platform for experienced and emerging scientists to showcase their work, it also brings together policymakers, public health practitioners and health officials with the aim of sharing ideas, expertise and lessons across organizations and countries in the areas of malaria disease prevention and control.
This year’s gathering focus largely on the progress that has been made towards achieving the National Department of Health’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2025 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. A number of countries, including South Africa, have now embarked on a malaria elimination agenda since the transmission of the disease has been drastically reduced, especially in the southern African region. Other key discussion topics include the impact of climate change in increasing the risk of malaria transmission in South Africa.
Of the 16 SADC countries, eight are targeting elimination by 2030. Cross border malaria which is one of the thematic areas of the conference, poses a serious threat to South Africa’s elimination efforts. Therefore, efforts to enhance cross border collaboration is vital and contributes to a greater body of knowledge and research. Hence, the meeting provides an opportunity for scientists to share their research findings with colleagues from the region as well as the wider malaria research community.
Professor Rajendra Maharaj, Director for the MRC Office of Malaria Research (MOMR) said “Researchers and control staff need to work together to achieve elimination since translational research is the key to overcoming challenges amplified by the covid pandemic.”
In his conference opening remarks, Honourable Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla emphasized that to attain South Africa’s goal to eliminate Malaria by 2025, innovative technologies and relevant research are required to guide implementation policies. He further said neighbouring countries like eSwatini and Mozambique are also striving towards malaria elimination, but success can only be attained through joint concerted efforts from all partners and governments. “Malaria is not country specific, the mosquito knows no borders, nor does it respect any specific air space! Therefore, regional, and cross border collaborations and partnerships are vital to elimination,” said the Minister.
In conclusion, Dr Phaahla said all these tools and technologies cannot and will not work if communities in the endemic provinces and regions do not see the need for them – thus, it is imperative that more awareness is created within communities. “Advocacy and awareness campaigns within communities will help people understand the continued need for malaria control activities and interventions.”
NOTE TO THE EDITOR:
The South African Medical Research Council Malaria Research Group (MRG) seeks to improve the health status and quality of life of people living in malaria endemic areas by facilitating high quality scientific research and innovative practices that informs the development of policy, health services, health promotion and capacity development.
In consultation with the Department of Health, the MRG developed a prioritized research agenda to foster networking and collaboration among different role players to synergise efforts on malaria research towards a common goal. Considering this, it was decided to host the first malaria research conference in 2015 which has now become an annual event.
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