Director, Access & Product Management, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly revealed the interconnected nature of global health security.
The effects of a faltering health system can be felt well beyond sovereign borders. This means that preventing the spread of a future pandemic rests on the strengthening of the systems which deliver healthcare in geographies where patients are most vulnerable.
According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest global mortality rate for children under five. It is also the region with the highest burden of malaria, accounting for over 90% of cases.
Identifying symptoms of malaria and COVID-19
Like other diseases, malaria thrives where access to basic health services is limited. Common symptoms, such as fever, have been shown to mask those of other infections, including COVID-19. This not only places a burden on already fragile health systems but threatens global health security more broadly by allowing disease to spread undetected.
Investments in malaria detection and response can increase preparedness for future disease outbreaks. A clear example of this synergy can be seen in the work of Chola, a Zambian fisherman, farmer and Community Facilitator (pictured), who supports the MAM (Mobilizing Access to Maternal Health Services in Zambia) at Scale project. The project trains community members in 10 districts across rural Zambia to respond to the danger signs of malaria and other diseases.
According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest global mortality rate for children under five.
Empowering local communities
In 2017, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) joined Transaid and the National Malaria Elimination Centre Zambia to launch the pilot project which reduced child case fatality rates from severe malaria in Zambia’s Serenje District by 96%.
The project is now being scaled up to cover a population of almost one million inhabitants, and the well-established systems used for malaria prevention are facilitating awareness raising on COVID-19 related policies, such as handwashing and social distancing. Chola now supports the project in disseminating key information to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from the Zambian Ministry of Health.
Today, MAM at Scale is helping to slow the spread of both malaria and COVID-19 and the capabilities developed have the potential to do the same for a future disease outbreak. Chola is making an impact on his own community, and beyond.
 WHO Fact sheets. Children: improving survival and well-being (2020).
 WHO World Malaria Report 2020.
 Mogahed Ismal Hassan Hussein et al., Malaria and COVID-19: unmasking their ties. Malaria Journal 19, 457 (2020).