Working in malaria prevention, one of the most challenging barriers to change is the widespread belief that malaria is normal and an integral part of everyday life in Rwanda. This perception is understandable given that the persistent burden of malaria has always been present and intertwined in Rwanda’s culture. It can therefore be very challenging to convince people, especially in rural villages, that a malaria free future in Rwanda is possible. Malaria can be eliminated in Rwanda. At STOMP, we focus on this challenging yet impactful mindset.
Through this platform and during our STOMP community outreach activities we offer to shine a light on exemplary local leaders who are working daily to affect change at the community level, many of whom are and will continue to be highlighted by STOMP. We try to expand perspectives regarding malaria prevention as we showcase local as well as international leaders who are role models of success in the field of malaria prevention. Communication and story gathering and sharing is crucial in the fight against malaria. The STOMPing out malaria in Africa program is an international initiative of Peace Corps posts all dedicated to the elimination of malaria in our lifetime, and we must learn from one another and share strategies across borders in the fight against malaria.
Globally, malaria elimination is at the forefront of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) current Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 (GTS). You can find details of the strategy and progress toward elimination here: WHO Eliminating Malaria Overview
Trends globally are in the positive direction with many countries poised to move into pre-elimination and elimination phases including examples from the WHO African region. This figure shows counties currently with the potential for elimination by 2020:
The total number of countries moving in this direction is encouraging:
However, we have a long fight ahead of us. Some countries have seen an increase in cases in the last 5 years (including Rwanda) with a marked jump in cases from 2015 – 2016. Even as our ability to implement preventative strategies nationally and our surveillance system for case detection becomes more robust, many factors continue to influence this rise in cases. Of countries with increasing cases from 2015-2016, Rwanda is currently experiencing the largest increase in new cases from the previous year of any country: WHO World Malaria Report 2017
The fight toward elimination is taxing and at times discouraging, but not insurmountable. Partnering with community health workers, local leaders, governments, and international health organizations, we can steer Rwanda and the world, closer to a world where malaria does not threaten any family or child. Malaria elimination is a slow process, but we are confident we can begin to curb the increase in new cases. We will strive for high impact programs that reach at risk populations and communities at their own doorstep and empower them to help lead their areas in new, innovative strategies of malaria prevention. We will provide evidence based tools and empower local leaders to advocate for malaria prevention in their communities. What starts as a ripple, will become a wave. One house at a time, we will move towards the elimination of malaria and a safe environment for all families in Rwanda.
By Andrew Abram
Copyediting/Additional Writing: Ryan Sandford