Over the last 15 years, increased global investment in fighting malaria has contributed substantially to reduction in the prevalence of the disease in endemic countries around the world. With the development of new technologies and innovative approaches to disease control, there is more hope than ever that malaria will be eliminated in places where it used to be a major public health threat.
However, sustaining momentum requires a deep understanding of the changes in the frequency of the disease, determinants of transmission and impact of interventions in a changing environment. Understanding these changes is essential in order to tailor health interventions to be as effective as possible.
Malaria Consortium’s Beyond Garki project, funded by the UK government through the Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA), seeks to understand changes in malaria epidemiology and recommend strategies to improve malaria control efforts. The project is named after the efforts of the World Health Organization and the government of Nigeria to study the epidemiology and control of malaria in Garki, Nigeria between 1969 and 1976. Beyond Garki began in Uganda and Ethiopia in 2012, with four survey rounds conducted to date. Additional studies were also carried out in Cambodia, and more studies are planned in Nigeria. Each survey tracks changes in malaria epidemiology over time and will ideally inform strategic decisions on the use of interventions.
The baseline results have been made available and will serve as a point of comparison for data obtained from subsequent survey rounds, which will be released in the autumn. However the results of the baseline survey are interesting in their own right. Some of the highlights are listed below:Low to moderate malaria transmission intensity was observed in all sites. In Ethiopia, P. vivax was found to be a predominant malaria species, probably due to decline in transmission over recent years. High coverage of insecticide treated nets (ITNs)was observed in three of four sites but it is still not at an ideal level. ITN use rates among household members that had access were generally quite high. The study also showed there is willingness to buy nets, at least in the Uganda sites. In Uganda, a major vector of malaria, A. gambiae s.s., has developed resistance against pyrethroids. Most human-vector contact still occurs indoors. However, there is a tendency of early biting of A. funestus s.l. in one of the sites in Uganda. More information is needed to determine the biting and resting habits of vector species in both countries. The rate of malaria diagnosis using microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) has been strengthened in all sites. RDTs have been found to effectively predict negative malaria results, indicating that service providers should pay attention to other causes of fever when RDT negative results are reported for patients. The level of use of intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) needs to be strengthened in Uganda.