On World Malaria Day 2020, in this new era framed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more important to stay focused on our collective efforts to control and eliminate malaria.
Mindful that the pandemic is testing the resilience of health systems around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries to ensure the continuity of their malaria services and prioritise prevention strategies to help reduce the strain on health systems.
It’s an approach wholeheartedly endorsed by Burnet’s senior malaria researchers, including Professor Freya Fowkes, Deputy Program Director, Maternal and Child Health.
“COVID-19 threatens to derail a lot of our progress by threatening already very weak and fractured health care systems,” Professor Fowkes said.
“It is therefore really important that we come together to overcome these significant barriers and maintain the distribution of malaria interventions, in particular, testing and treating at the community level in order to stay on track to meet our malaria elimination and control goals.”
Burnet Co-Program Director, Health Security, Associate Professor Leanne Robinson regards stronger health systems and empowered communities as central to both epidemic preparedness and malaria elimination.
“Our surveillance and implementation research programs in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia are supporting health departments to maintain evidence-based malaria control as well as contain COVID-19,” Associate Professor Robinson said.
And while the world watches and waits for a breakthrough COVID-19 vaccine, Burnet’s Head of Malaria Immunity and Vaccines Laboratory, Professor James Beeson is leading the Institute’s vital research to develop a world-first effective malaria vaccine.
“Our malaria vaccine work is understanding how the immune system fights and prevents malaria infection, and we’re developing novel approaches and strategies to design vaccines that generate potent immunity against malaria that can be used to protect vulnerable populations,” Professor Beeson said.
Those vulnerable populations include communities in the Greater Mekong Subregion generally, and Myanmar in particular, where Burnet Malaria Program Manager, Dr Win Han Oo leads from the front.
“In the global pandemic of Covid-19 … it’s important to keep the momentum of malaria elimination,” Dr Win said.
“We need to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilise additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.”
At this extraordinary time, Burnet’s contribution to malaria elimination globally has never been more relevant, or more needed.
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