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End-of-Year Message from PMI Impact Malaria’s Director, Ricki Orford

2020. What a year.

It’s a year that has required all of us to dramatically transform so many aspects of our lives, including how we work. Like me, I’m sure many of you are wondering what 2021 will bring. It’s so hard to anticipate, but whatever the year brings, I know PMI Impact Malaria is ready to deal with it head on.

It has been an exciting few weeks watching deployment of the first COVID-19 vaccines, in what will quickly become the largest and fastest vaccination campaign in human history. This is welcome news and an amazing public health achievement, but the challenge for us remains, how do we continue to control and treat malaria in the context of such disruption?

The World Malaria Report reminds us that despite remarkable progress, the global gains in combatting malaria have levelled off in recent years. The good news is that between 2000 and 2019, there was a marked reduction in global malaria case incidence and mortality rates. However, these data do not account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to have had a negative effect on our progress against malaria. We cannot let our guard down. Malaria continues to take a heavy toll on pregnant women and children, particularly in Africa, and there remains much room for improvement when it comes to coverage of malaria service delivery interventions overall. Never has our work been more important.

For PMI Impact Malaria, this past year has been all about rapid innovation and adaptation with our countries and partners to mitigate disruptions to malaria services, while responding to COVID-19. We have achieved so much against the odds, to help Sara* protect herself and her family from malaria and to ensure that quality treatment is available when she needs it. On that note, I suggest we let our work speak for itself. Here’s a small snapshot of country-driven achievements that PMI Impact Malaria supported over the past year:

  • Strengthened the link between remote communities and malaria health care services and worked with partners to establish and share a framework for using insights into health provider behaviors to improve malaria service delivery.
  • Protected pregnant women in Côte d’Ivoire from malaria, conveyed the massive human impact of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative in preventing malaria in pregnancy (MIP), and amplified the global call to “speed up, scale up” malaria preventive therapy among pregnant women.
  • Prevented childhood malaria through implementation of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns in Mali and Cameroon & Niger that administered antimalarial medicine to more than four million children during each of the four campaign cycles, while incorporating adaptations to protect children, families, and health workers from COVID-19 transmission. The success of the campaigns built on lessons learned from the 2019 campaigns.
  • Trained 3,473 health workers across 10 countries in appropriate management of uncomplicated and severe malaria to improve timely diagnosis and treatment of malaria and enhance the ability of health workers to confidently provide malaria services during the pandemic.
  • Directly supported COVID-19 response in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ghana while advancing malaria service delivery through supportive supervision and remote mentoring to strengthen the competencies of health workers.

As we close out the year, I’m deeply grateful to PMI Impact Malaria team members, partners, and the global malaria community for your many contributions and innovations that have helped to fight malaria and save lives during 2020. Thank you for everything you’ve done, and for looking after each other as we deliver malaria services in this COVID-19 context. I look forward to the work that we will continue doing together in 2021 as we take PMI Impact Malaria from strength to strength, moving care closer to Sara.

Wishing you all good health and better days in the new year.

Ricki Orford

Senior Project Director, PMI Impact Malaria

Sara is PSI's archetypal consumer in the countries where PSI works. She deserves voice, choice, and agency when meeting her healthcare needs, and those of her family. Sara may be an adolescent, young mother, older woman — or even a Sam.

PMI Impact Malaria is led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with JhpiegoMedical Care Development International (MCDI), and the Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI) at UC San Francisco.

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