Since the inaugural leadership forum in 2011 and follow-up engagement in 2017, “Rethinking Malaria” fora uphold a longstanding academic tradition of convening multidisciplinary perspectives from diverse stakeholders in a neutral environment. Following a multi-month global engagement, findings from “Rethinking Malaria in the Context of COVID-19” were shared during global webinar on September 1, 2021. See news about the virtual proceedings or watch in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
We need a global effort to rethink malaria, that takes into account the perspectives of those at the front line. Progress in reducing the malaria burden in the world has plateaued in the last few years, after fifteen years of progressive reductions which resulted in an overall 50% reduction in burden and in deaths. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further threatened the bold ambition of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030.
COVID-19 has created new challenges for both human and financial resources and the delivery of essential malaria services. In short, it is time to take stock—what lessons have we learned from our earlier success that apply to our current context and where have our approaches fallen short? What are the most important next steps in addressing global malaria?
To gain a better understanding of these issues, Harvard University’s Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe Initiative initiated global engagement focused on “Rethinking Malaria in the Context of COVID–19” in partnership with the World Health Organization and partner institutions around the world. A key goal of “Rethinking Malaria” is to push beyond conventional thinking to question fundamental assumptions and approaches, with a focus on bold new ideas to achieve real-world progress.
This effort incorporates learnings from the growing body of evidence—including the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) Refresh, World Malaria Report 2020, WHO Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme), Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication, etc.—to address the plateau to control and eradicate malaria in Africa.
Infectious diseases are once again at the forefront of global health, as is the recognition they can have huge and long-lasting economic and social impacts
Goal & Objectives
The goal of “Rethinking Malaria in the Context of COVID–19” is to identify novel ‘game-changing’ approaches to the malaria crisis with the following objectives:
- To propose new strategies for malaria governance and financing at the global, national, and district/community levels;
- To identify opportunities for maximizing impact with existing tools and best practices through strengthened implementation;
- To highlight areas where new technology and operational innovation (from COVID–19 learnings and beyond) can catalyze progress toward malaria eradication and elimination; and
- To identify essential gaps in training and capacity building to continue innovation.
Under the leadership of Professor Rose Leke of the University of Yaoundé, “Rethinking Malaria” Chair, the following workstreams are organized to achieve the goal and objectives of this effort at “Rethinking Malaria.” Together, these Working Groups consult with a range of stakeholders with a focus on those working on the front lines and those most affected by the disease to consider malaria challenges and opportunities in the context of COVID–19 in Africa.
- Malaria Governance
Co-Chairs: Professor Michael R. Reich and Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe
Members/Additional Authors: Jesse B. Bump, Nii Ayite Coleman, Anya Guyer, Kelechi Ohiri, Jimmy Opigo,
and Ravindra Rannan-Eliya
- Integrated Service Delivery for Malaria (including R&D and private sector engagement)
Co-Chairs: Professors Evelyn Korkor Ansah and Corrina Moucheraud
- Training and Capacity Building for Malaria
Co-Chairs: Professors Marcia Castro, Núria Casamitjana, Friday Okonofua, and Marcel Tanner
Members/Additional Authors: Margaret Gyapong, Maurice Itoe, Charles Mbogo, Halima Mwenesi, and Fredros Okumu
Guiding questions across the above-noted topics/themes include: (1) Who is deciding? (e.g., global financing decision-making); (2) How do we more effectively—and more equitably—deliver services universally (everyone, but not everything)? and (3) What is the current and necessary capacity to solve problems at the country-level?
As part of this “Rethinking Malaria” process, the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme coordinated a regional consultative process in June 2021, which also began with the continent with the highest burden of malaria.
Advisory Committee & Sponsors
A small research staff supports this effort. An external Advisory Committee composed of experts and thought leaders provides feedback on the global public good deliverables for the “Rethinking Malaria in the Context of COVID–19.”
This “Rethinking Malaria” global engagement is financially sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J.C. Flowers Foundation, Harvard University’s Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe Initiative, and the Takemi Program in International Health at the Harvard Chan.
Please contact Carmen Mejia, Executive Director, Harvard University’s Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe Initiative with questions.