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Goodbye Malaria launches Centre of Excellence for Malaria research and control

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Goodbye Malaria, in partnership with the University of Pretoria and the Ministry of Health of the Government of Mozambique, is opening a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Namaacha, Mozambique, that will place the private-public partnership at the forefront of malaria research and control. The aim is to eliminate malaria in Mozambique by 2030 and then roll the knowledge, technology, training and methodology out into the rest of Africa.

Sherwin Charles, CEO and co-founder of SA-based Goodbye Malaria, says that malaria is both treatable and preventable – and yet it remains one of the world’s biggest killers; particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly in children under the age of five.

Ownership of the CoE lies with the Government of Mozambique and Goodbye Malaria (which is audited annually by Deloitte) is responsible for the running of the centre and its upkeep. Goodbye Malaria will also spearhead the “franchising” of the methodology, which optimises existing techniques for indoor residual spraying (IRS) with appropriate pesticides, beyond Mozambique’s borders.

While negotiations are underway with The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, TB And Malaria, the first phase of equipping the CoE has been sponsored by Nando’s.

The CoE will have two primary functions. The first of these is to provide facilities for integrated vector management (IVM) training. IVM, which incorporates IRS (a proven malaria control method), is a dynamic and still-evolving field.

IVM strategies are designed to achieve the greatest disease-control benefit in the most cost-effective manner, while at the same time also minimise potential negative impacts on ecosystems (for example, depletion of biodiversity).

This is where the second function of the CoE becomes important: academia and entomology and public health post-graduate students of the University of Pretoria, and other leading institutions, will harness the facility’s resources for research in the field of malaria IVM. It is envisaged that this research will shed light on the phenomenon of vector resistance. Both the mosquito and the malaria parasite are known to develop resistance to the pesticide and medication, respectively, which has resulted in elimination malaria becoming increasingly difficult.

The research being carried out at the CoE will help plot smarter IVM strategies for the future. Charles says that the CoE will focus on fine-tuning existing IRS knowledge to create an evolved IVM strategy that will fast-track the process of eliminating malaria for good: “Business and science have joined forces to create smarter solutions for eradicating malaria”.

The CoE picks up where the Lebombo Spatial Development Initiative (LSDI), a joint anti-malaria initiative of the governments of SA, Swaziland and Mozambique, left off. “It is exciting,” says Charles, “That we are now also working with the University of Pretoria, as its research to be conducted at the CoE will supplement our operational expertise.”

Professor Tiaan DeJager, Deputy Dean, Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, University of Pretoria, says that the CoE is a powerful weapon in the fight to eliminate malaria – which, despite significant inroads since 2000, still kills 1.2 million people every year; a child every 120 seconds. These past interventions have helped to reduce malaria mortality by 54% in Africa.

“Mosquito-borne diseases are still a significant cause of illnesses and deaths worldwide. Developments in the field of malaria will also shape how we combat, for example, the emerging Zika Virus,” says DeJager. In addition, DeJager says that cross-border co-operation between endemic countries is essential, and innovation is crucial: “A transdisciplinary approach and active collaboration are need to reach our elimination goals.”

The CoE also plans to lead a curriculum via which any interested parties can earn a diploma related to eliminating malaria, which will be issued by Goodbye Malaria’s accredited education partners.

Goodbye Malaria has completed three IRS rounds in the geographically strategic area of southern Mozambique (which borders both Swaziland and northern KwaZulu-Natal) since 2014. Training of “sprayers” for the 2016 spray season will start in June.

Goodbye Malaria recruits sprayers from the areas in which the IRSs are to take place. This creates local employment, and also smoothens the process as they are both familiar with the terrain and known to the community members. Spraying is an arduous task, says Charles. There is a specific technique that must be employed; the equipment is heavy; the protective clothing is cumbersome; and the temperatures can be searing. “Goodbye Malaria will leverage our partners, resources, business experience and solidarity with international bodies such as the World Health Organization, RBM and ALMA, to achieve our stated goals. But the sprayers are the true heroes in the fight to finally say goodbye to malaria.”

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