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.
The E words, Eradication and Elimination, are firmly back on the table after at least 2 decades in which they could not be mentioned in polite malaria company. The last two years have seen remarkable progress in translating these concepts into clear strategies and substantial action.
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In a recent commentary published by CNN, Tachi Yamada, President of the Global Health Programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expressed his euforism about the malaria control activities on the island of Zanzibar. And not without reason. He visited a paediatric ward and found empty beds. No sick children, no suffering because of malaria. Indeed a reason to be happy. Zanzibar has hammered malaria over the last five years to the extent where it 'has virtually eliminated the disease' according to Yamada.
I attended a most interesting meeting yesterday in Wageningen (The Netherlands) where some 30 scientists and representatives of donor organisations gathered. Two scientists from disease-endemic countries (Rwanda and Kenya) presented case studies to the audience. These were followed by a mini 'open space' meeting where attendees could submit questions on post-its for discussion in small groups.
It has been an interesting week regarding the latest addition to the list of species of malaria parasites that can infect humans: Plasmodium knowlesi. I was interviewed by two Dutch radio programmes that picked up the scare from the BBC World website . Apparently there was also a Dutch tourist that returned back home from Sarawak with this 'deadly form of monkey malaria'....
Anyone serious about African safaris is serious about malaria. The sheer number of deaths caused by this parasitic disease simply puts the mosquito as the number 1 most dangerous animal in the world. Ten children will have died of malaria in the time it takes you to read this blog. I have never sat around a camp fire whilst on safari without malaria being discussed one way or the other. Some fantastic stories persist, and here are some really good ones: