The vital role of national malaria control programs' use of quality data
Recognized every April 25th, World Malaria Day is an annual moment to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control.
The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day, per the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, is “Draw the Line Against Malaria.” Malaria elimination remains in reach. Earlier this year, El Salvador became the first Central American country to be declared “malaria free” by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, despite historic progress over recent decades, a child still dies from malaria every two minutes. The battle is far from over, and COVID-19 has made the fight harder than ever.
When it comes to drawing the line against malaria, national malaria control programs (NMCPs) are on the front lines. These country institutions act as coordinating bodies to provide services for malaria prevention and treatment in their respective countries.
So, this World Malaria Day, we want to draw a direct line between NMCP information use and sustainable, inclusive, and effective malaria prevention and treatment programs.
Data helps build resilience to public health emergencies
Data plays a key role in building resilience. For example, malaria-specific data can help NMCPs adjust their approach when there are external shocks, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the Sub-Saharan countries where we support NMCPs, different countries adjusted their programs quickly to respond to the pandemic, delaying some programs or re-training community health workers as needed. This was particularly apparent during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when NMCPs carefully tracked outpatient service visits and held off on providing commodities for malaria treatment when the number of visits decreased. Once people started to return to health facilities, NMCPs ensured that treatment commodities were delivered quickly.
Data guides seasonal fluctuations in treatment and prevention
The data and information gathered by the NMCP is helping allocate resources for specific interventions. By integrating data from specific campaigns into routine monitoring systems, countries can have a holistic view of commodity and treatment needs. In Cameroon, for example, risk of malaria is especially high during the three- to four-month rainy season. In preparation, NMCPs use data to plan for how much antimalarial medicine is needed to conduct seasonal malaria chemoprevention (monthly doses given to children during that peak time). Last year, per the USAID-funded Impact Malaria program, this allowed for millions of children to receive preventive care in Cameroon.
Data also helps to connect the dots
Since this year’s theme is “Draw the Line,” we affirm that NMCP demand, access, and use of data will draw lines to “connect the dots” between surveillance, commodities, treatment, prevention, and eventual outcomes. Continuing to make investments to strengthen NMCP’s information capacity will help across the entire continuum of interventions. May even more countries be certified “malaria free” in the future!
In addition to specific references in the article, information and data for this article are pulled from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, where ICF serves as the secretariat of the Monitoring and Evaluation Working Group and other activities under the auspices of the President’s Malaria Initiative Measure Malaria Program, funded by USAID and led by the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Population Center. Views expressed are strictly those of the authors.