Innovative Anti-Malarial Programs in Malawi

April 25, 2019

While progress has been made in limiting the scope of the disease in Africa, climate change is expanding the range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, putting populations at risk that haven’t previously been exposed. Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes according to the World Health Organization.

Since 2011, The Hunger Project has been working with partner organizations in Malawi to halt the spread of malaria. As part of the Majete Malaria Project, local “animators” in over 118 villages have been trained to conduct malaria prevention workshops, improve houses to reduce mosquito bites indoors, and train community health workers on the methods of malaria transmission.

For maximum impact, The Hunger Project-Malawi partners with UNICEF on the sale and distribution of low-cost, anti-malarial bednets within our community epicenters. In 2016, over 99,000 malaria preventing bed nets were distributed to our African partners.

As a new development in the ongoing pursuit of a sustainable solution to malarial infections, on April 23rd the World Health Organization announced the launch of the first malaria vaccine pilot program in Malawi. This vaccine was decades in the making and, while imperfect, still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

Currently, 57% of malaria fatalities are children younger than 5 years old, and children who are malnourished are at the highest risk of life-threatening complications. The new malaria vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to 2 years of age, with first doses recommended to infants as young as 5 months old. In clinical trials, the vaccine effectively prevented malaria in 39% of cases, including 29% of life-threateningly severe cases. The vaccine is intended to be used alongside traditional forms of malaria prevention, such as insecticide-treated bednets, indoor residual spraying with insecticides, preventive treatment for infants and during pregnancy, and prompt diagnostic testing and treatment of confirmed cases with effective anti-malarial medicines.

“We believe that this may be yet another tool—an imperfect tool with a modest efficacy—just like all of our other malaria control tools—but which, when used imperfectly, may actually have massive impact,” Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Program, said.

“This is a day to celebrate,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, “as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccination.”