A Look Back: The Trans-Kunene Malaria Initiative

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

The Trans-Kunene Malaria Initiative (TKMI) refers to three malaria-prone regions in Namibia: Kunene, Omusati, and Ohangwena. The term refers also to the efforts made to eradicate the disease there. Based on data collected between 1995 and 2013, nonprofits’ and NGOs’ work to eliminate malaria in this area have succeeded. Thanks to a partnership between the Harvard School of Public Health and the JC Flowers Foundation, that data provided some of the first hard numbers that showed just have effective malaria initiatives can be in African countries.

In 2011, previous to these health initiatives, the total number of malaria cases reported in the Trans-Kunene area numbered at almost 92,000, with 365 deaths in that time. By 2012, cases of malaria dropped to about 48,000—a highly significant decrease with a promising downward trajectory.

In 2011, 20 square kilometers on both sides of the border between Angola and Namibia received community education about the disease and training for church leaders. Malaria control volunteers and research assistants were also sent to the Trans-Kunene to work and collect data regularly. The countries’ governments worked together to assist in the initiative by allowing workers to cross the border and issuing identity cards for workers.

But the Foundation and partners realized that disease eradication takes more than just philosophy: it requires a change in equipment and in attitude. Volunteers put up bed nets to ward off mosquitoes, went house to house to educate the communities about malaria, sprayed houses, and tested and treated people living with malaria. The results of the endeavor have created real change for those living in that area, suggesting that malaria prevention not only can work in other places around the world, but that it will.

Now the JC Flowers Foundation continues their work through a partnership with Malaria No More UK, a project intended to target specific Namibian districts with high rates of malaria transmission. The Clinton Health Access Initiative, or CHAI, will work to slow the rate of malaria transmission in the areas to keep the disease from spreading. A rapid response system will be put in place to quickly find and take care of malaria cases.

Because of health initiatives like these, the likelihood of eliminating malaria seems more possible than not, and perhaps even probable. To eradicate the disease means a reduction not just in the cost of medical supplies and preventive work, but also in human suffering. As a result of the TKMI, fewer people are living with the disease, and fewer still are at risk for contracting it.

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