Protecting the vulnerable
Along with governments and global health organisations the world over, Malaria Consortium is committed to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our mission to protect the most vulnerable, and COVID-19 is a new addition to a list of communicable diseases that still includes malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and dengue. Any let up in tackling these diseases would be devastating for millions of people across Africa and Asia at a time when health systems are fragile and likely to be stretched to breaking point by the added burden of COVID-19.
Malaria Consortium fully supports the World Health Organization’s declaration that interventions to prevent and control common communicable diseases should be defined as core services that must not be interrupted. This should ensure that the delivery of these services is able to continue even with the movement restrictions that national governments are implementing to suppress transmission of COVID-19. This can be achieved by safeguarding delivery platforms for core services and implementing enhanced safety measures so that health workers and health service users are protected from being infected with the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19.
Fever case management through prompt differential diagnosis at health facility service and community service delivery points should not be interrupted. Interruptions could lead to more severe and life threatening disease, placing even more strain on the health system that would be coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The likelihood of poor treatment outcomes will be increased. More children will die from pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea. Early diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated malaria and pneumonia and other communicable diseases as well as proper management of severe disease will help to reduce mortality risk associated with coronavirus infection. Malaria Consortium is working with Ministries of Health and development partners to adapt the delivery of community-based services such as integrated community case management (iCCM), within the context of COVID-19 transmission scenarios, in Mozambique, Uganda and Nigeria. In Cambodia, we are using additional safety measures for Forest Malaria Workers and Mobile Malaria Workers /Village Malaria Workers so that they can continue to provide vital malaria diagnosis and treatment services to communities.
Malaria prevention through Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), Indoor residual spraying (IRS), Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp), and Seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) should not be interrupted. Interruptions will likely lead to malaria resurgence since the malaria transmission potential in many endemic countries is still very high having been suppressed by the collective global efforts to increase coverage with proven interventions in line with WHO global recommendations. The stalling of the decline we have seen over the past few years could within a few months turn into a rapid resurgence of the malaria burden; also further adding to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries that are entering a malaria transmission season currently and in the next few months, overlapping with the COVID-19 pandemic, will require contingency plans to stock drugs and other essential supplies and manage severe disease. Malaria Consortium is working with Ministries of Health and development partners to prepare to start SMC from July onwards, in time for the peak malaria transmission season in Nigeria, Chad and Burkina Faso.
Community sensitisation and mobilisation around the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and dengue should be emphasised. Communication channels of information such as Health workers, Community Health Workers (CHWs), social media, radio and mHealth platforms should be used to garner community support for actions to suppress transmission of COVID-19 and galvanise their participation. There is the chance of stigmatisation of community members with symptoms that resemble those due to COVID-19, and fear of exposure to COVID-19 cases will lead to delays in seeking care. This situation may be further compounded by existing measures to suppress the pandemic, such as bans on public transport in many countries that could further hinder accessibility to care. Malaria Consortium is working with Ministry of Health and development partners in Uganda to develop context specific messaging on COVID-19 that can be delivered through existing social behaviour change platforms.
Routine reporting of health information should not be interrupted. Interruptions will adversely affect disease surveillance and hamper responses to outbreaks of other illnesses. Where it is possible to do so, paper-based and mHealth based reporting platforms should be adapted ready to capture syndromic information if the switch to presumptive treatment of fever cases is made. Malaria Consortium is working with Ministry of Health and development partners in Mozambique to enable the upSCALE mHealth platform to support the COVID-19 response at the community level through the rapid development and deployment of awareness and education information, stock control of essential materials such as PPE and COVID-19 disease surveillance.
Every life is precious and we are taking the necessary actions to protect the vulnerable, both among the people who deliver care and the beneficiaries’ of such care, to save as many lives as possible during this devastating pandemic.
All of latest COVID-19 updates and resources can be found here.
 WHO 2020. COVID‑19: Strategic Planning and Operational Guidance for Maintaining Essential Health Services during an Outbreak
Click here for the World Health Organizations' statement on ensuring the continuity of malaria services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here for the WHO's Q&A on malaria and COVID-19.