World Malaria Day 2012: Sharing Best Practices in Latin America

Last month, Ms. Alisha Smith-Arthur, Associate Director of the Program Support Team, traveled to Guatemala to share best practices and lessons learned from the Malaria Control in Cambodia (MCC) and Control and Prevention of Malaria (CAP-Malaria) projects in reducing malaria infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.  Funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by University Research Co., LLC (URC), the projects provided valuable insight for Latin American health organizations that gathered to discuss ways to combat malaria in the Amazon Basin region, a region where infections are increasing.

The USAID Amazon Malaria Initiative and The Amazon Network for the Surveillance of Antimalarial Drug Resistance (RAVREDA) of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) convened researchers and public health officials from more than a dozen countries for their XI Annual Evaluation Meeting held March 19 to 23 in Antigua. Ms. Smith-Arthur participated in discussions and presented findings from MCC and CAP-Malaria.

MCC, which recently ended after four years, made significant progress in reaching people at risk of contracting malaria in western Cambodia, contributing to:

  • the reduction of confirmed malaria cases from a little over 20 per 1,000 in population to under three;
  • a decrease in the malaria case fatality rate (the ratio of the malaria deaths to the number of diagnosed malaria cases) from 4.3% to 0.8%;
  • and a decline in reported malaria mortality from about 5 per 100,000 population to nearly zero.

The CAP-Malaria project continues this work throughout the border areas of Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. CAP-Malaria focuses on improving the quality and effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment of malaria at the community and health facility levels; reducing management bottlenecks of national and local malaria control programs to implement and monitor malaria control activities; and supporting the establishment and maintenance of malaria control information.

Malaria in Latin America

While the malaria situation in Latin America differs in many ways from Southeast Asia, there is a need in both regions to develop specialized, targeted strategies to reach populations that have a high risk of contracting the disease. In Latin America, the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for farming, mining and building settlements creates conditions favorable for mosquitoes to propagate. The mosquitoes bite migrant and mobile workers employed outside and to people in nearby communities, many of which are located in remote areas where it is difficult to provide care.

The MCC Project explored several innovative ways to reach mobile and migrant populations, including village malaria workers and volunteer taxi drivers who played educational tapes during their rides.

Between 2000 and 2009, malaria cases in Latin America declined by half, with a nearly 70% reduction in deaths caused by malaria. Today, nearly nine out of ten malaria cases occur in the Amazon Basin, an area that spans the borders of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela.

During the meeting, participants discussed factors limiting care for at-risk populations, including lack of systems to rapidly diagnose and treat cases and supply chain weaknesses that prevent malaria drugs and supplies from reaching those who need them, as well as strategies to improve them.

For more information about the MCC and CAP-Malaria projects, please contact Dr. Kheang Soy Ty, Chief of Party for CAP-Malaria.

A Cambodian taxi driver and his friends place a malaria information poster on the back of his taxi window.
A Cambodian taxi driver and his friends place a malaria information poster on the back of his taxi window.
April 25, 2012
Regions/ Countries