Dr Sylvia Meek, entymologist, vector control specialist, Malaria Consortium co-founder and Global Technical Director 2003-2016
Sylvia was one of the most knowledgeable, impactful and appreciated women engaged in the fight against infectious diseases, particularly malaria.
Born in Hull, UK in 1954, Sylvia attended the University of Oxford and graduated with a degree in Zoology followed by an MSc in Animal Parasitology from Bangor University. Following this, she studied for a PhD on the mosquito vectors of lymphatic filariasis in the Pacific Islands.
Sylvia’s early work included being a World Health Organization (WHO) malaria adviser for the antimalarial programme in the Solomon Islands, and periods in Namibia and Cambodia – during which time she gained the nickname ‘Mosquito Sylvia’. In 1989, she consulted on forest malaria in 1989 in Thailand, setting up disease control programs for refugees along the Thai-Cambodia border, and working for DFID’s malaria programme.
Her vision, however, was to engage at a more practical level to tackle a disease that killed over a million children every year. She wanted to reach the most vulnerable and bridge the gaps in health systems where they were weakest, between research and implementation, facility and community, public and private sectors, with interventions based on good evidence. This vision led her to help found international NGO Malaria Consortium in 2003.
Thanks to Syliva’s determination, Malaria Consortium was appointed to help conduct the first Cambodia malaria indicator surveys in 2004, leading to the start of Cambodia’s response to malaria and malarial drug resistance. In 2007 she supported both Thailand and Cambodia to develop their Global Fund bids and conducted Malaria Program Reviews in Thailand and Myanmar to advise governments on how to improve their malaria programmes. Through the WHO Malaria Policy Advisory Committee, she helped drive malaria control and elimination policy changes in Asia, and was a key member of the Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance in the region.
Her immense knowledge, passion and commitment touched many people, both directly and indirectly. She never lost enthusiasm for finding ways of improving the lives of those affected by infectious diseases. Her profound impact on the sector inspired all whom she worked with from the grassroots to the government to want make the changes that can save countless lives.
Sylvia lost her battle with cancer in May 2016.