The 5th Pan-African MIM meeting on malaria was held in Nairobi last week, and brought together the largest number of participants since the first meeting that was held in Senegal twelve years ago.
For me it was a great opportunity to meet with friends and colleagues that I had not seen for some or even a long time. Regretfully, though, time was too short to talk at length because before you knew it somebody else passed by and also wanted to say hello. It gave me a feeling of seeing many, but at the same time seeing nobody.
Finding out which talks to attend was difficult, as the abstract book did not have an author or topic index. It would be great to have the abstract book online, fully searchable. This can be done next time. Many participants complained about the inadequate audio-visual technology. Projection screens were too distant to be able to read text on them, and some presentations were merely seperated by panels and led to disturbing noises from the other presentation (applause etc). This too can be sorted.
But that's logistics. From the science point of view, the e-words were more prominent in the talks and discussions than ever before. Huge optimism reigns, and this is of course good. Striking were the comments that elimination/eradication will be possible, but with three important, essential, prerequisites:
1) Reaching elimination/eradication will be a long-term challenge. Many said it will not happen in our generation, others that even our children will still battle with it. I wondered what this meant, as in essence any improvement in the malaria situation would fall nicely within this. In other words: Proceeding the way its done right now is fine. I did not hear anything about radically new strategies that would give me the 'Yes, we can' eradication feeling.
2) Political commitment. Many argued that only with sustained and significant political will in endemic countries could anything change. This made me wonder what the Abuja declaration meant. Wasn't this political commitment? Or the recent African leaders agreement that was signed in New York?
3) New tools. We need to develop new tools to augment the current ones and replace them when they become redundant (because of resistance for instance). However, at the same time I heard strong views that what we have is enough to put a big dent in the global malaria map, and that it is 'process' rather than 'tools' that needs to be addressed.
All of this is a lot of food for thought, and really were issues that had surfaced before this meeting.
For those who did not attend the MIM meeting this year, I believe it will be interesting to provide them with feedback. So here's your challenge: What was it that you took home from the MIM meeting?What were the most significant issues that came out of it? Did the meeting bring forward new views that the MalariaWorld members need to hear? Was it all worth it?
We look forward to seeing your comments.