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Managing the battle against malaria

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Nearly half of the world’s population, 3.2 billion people, remain at risk of malaria.

Throughout the battle with malaria, project management skills can be seen in action at every level. Project management is absolutely critical in addressing the unique regulatory, compliance and quality related needs of the pharmaceutical industry to coordinate the right people to the right places with the right equipment in challenging environments and within budget constraints.

For Susan Simon (head of projects at the medical research council), coordinating aid and research in countries like the Gambia which are affected by malaria brings its own challenges in addition to key project management tasks:  “Simple yet functional is key. Maintaining state of the art labs like the ones in the UK is hugely expensive as everything would have to be imported and maintained”. 

By working with architects to keep designs simple, yet functional when building in remote or small countries allows the Medical Research Council to use local skilled trades and materials that may not work with more complex structures. It also allows field labs to facilitate high degrees of flexibility including adjustable room layouts and equipment, should demand change in five years’ time so can the facility – with minimal disruption.

This need for flexibility can be seen across the world as mosquito resistance to insecticides used in nets and indoor residual spraying is growing. Further progress against malaria will likely require new tools that do not exist today, and the further refining of new technologies.

Last year, for the first time, the European Medicines Agency issued a positive scientific opinion on a malaria vaccine. In January 2016, WHO recommended large-scale pilot projects of the vaccine in several African countries, which could pave the way for wider deployment in the years ahead.
Each year, the World Health Organisation works with partners around the world to highlight a common World Malaria Day theme. 

This year’s theme “end malaria for good” reflects the vision of a malaria-free world set out in the “Global Technical Strategy 2016-2030”,  detailing WHO’s plans to reduce malaria cases and mortality by 90% by 2030.

The report carries forward the hard work conducted by WHO and partnering organisations who have already reduced Malaria mortality rates by 60% since 2000, so, while at first sight the vision may seem ambitious, it is certainly not unachievable. 

“Our report shines a spotlight on countries that are well on their way to eliminating malaria,” said Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. But reaching the next level—elimination—will not be easy.

“Vigorous leadership by the governments of affected countries is key. Governments must strengthen surveillance of cases to identify gaps in coverage and be prepared to take action based on the information received. As countries approach elimination, the ability to detect every infection becomes increasingly important.” Dr Alonso added.

World class doctors, healthcare professionals and aid workers are spread across the world ready to tackle the deadly disease which saw 214 million new cases in 95 countries last year.  

While this target set out by the WHO is ambitious, if successful, it could result in the rescuing of millions of lives every year globally – a result all professions and stakeholders desperately want to see. 


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