2021: Progress during challenging times

2020 was a strange and difficult year for all. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a new set of challenges to the project, forcing the team to be creative and find new ways to progress on our goal of developing a new vector control tool for malaria. Our plans changed on nearly every front 

In the wider malaria community it was a relief to see that the progress of the last 20 years in reducing malaria incidence was not undone. Even under the worst of circumstances during the pandemic, 90% of planned malaria programmes went ahead with 200 million mosquito repellent nets distributed and 20 million children protected with anti-malarial drugs – saving hundreds of thousands of lives as a result. 

Closer to home, with thanks to our teams’ commitment to a world free of malaria, we also have a number of positive developments to report from the project across Africa, Europe and North America.  

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The current season of El Cazador de Cerebros (The Brain Hunter), a Spanish language science documentary series aired on the Spanish public broadcast channel, RTVE – La 2, begins with an episode dedicated to pandemics and diseases of global importance, including COVID-19, Zika virus, and malaria.  

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I am thrilled to be joining the Target Malaria team as the new Project Manager for Stakeholder Engagement and Communications. I am particularly looking forward to working with a team that has diverse expertise and talent and are passionate about reducing the transmission of malaria. 

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Malaria must die so millions can live

In an ongoing effort to raise awareness of the fight against malaria, the influential Malaria Must Die campaign led by Malaria No More UK is releasing a new, ground-breaking short film, produced by RSA Films Amsterdam. The movie is called “A World Without Malaria” and brings together the special effects’ geniuses behind Hollywood’s Marvel Blockbusters, the Ridley Scott Creative Group, and global icon and Malaria No More and UNICEF Ambassador David Beckham. 

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The World Health Organization is releasing today its annual World Malaria Report 2020. While the report gave many reasons to celebrate, the situation in Africa is not progressing like the rest of the world.  

Long-term investments in prevention, diagnosis and treatment programmes have paid off. In the last decade, 1.5 billion cases of malaria were prevented, and 7.6 million lives saved. Africa accounted for most of the averted cases (82%) and deaths (94%), followed by the South-East Asia region, with 10% and 3% respectively.

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I am delighted to be joining Target Malaria as Stakeholder Engagement Manager in Uganda. A Social Development professional, I am a passionate advocate for better health with over ten years experience in community mobilization and stakeholder engagements across civil society and government.  

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Eric Lander is a Professor of Biology at Harvard Medical School and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He launched this month a new science podcast series entitled Brave New Planet. Hosted in partnership with Pushkin Industries and the Boston Globe, Brave New Planet is a podcast about amazing new technologies looking at their potential impact and considering their inherent risks. Eric Lander talks to leading researchers, journalists, doctors, policy makers, activists, and legal experts to illuminate how this generation’s choices will shape the future as never before. 

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While vector-borne diseases (VBDs) particularly malaria, remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, their burden particularly kills Africa’s youth, weakens the population as a whole and debilitates economies. Faced with these alarming facts, one of the strong recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the use of innovative technologies based on genetic engineering applied to the vectors of these diseases in order to offer a complementary tool to other methods already existing to effectively succeed in eliminating these diseases (Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030) 

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Malaria’s growing financial dilemma

Recent global events have created unprecedented economic challenges impacting the fight against malaria in ways that could not have been anticipated, leaving the fate of future efforts in question. As part of their ongoing Webinar Series to educate the global community on malaria eradication efforts, the Rotarian Malaria Partners (RMP) hosted ‘Malaria’s growing financial dilemma’, a highly anticipated virtual talk about the changes needed in the global funding structure, and daunting challenges on the horizon.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) published on October 13 its official position on conducting research involving genetically modified mosquitoes for the control of vector-borne diseases. It fully supports research on genetically modified mosquitoes as novel tools to combat persisting vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever which still afflict millions of people world-wide exerting a huge health and economic toll each year.

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