New Stakeholder Engagement Manager

I am delighted to be joining Target Malaria as the new Stakeholder Engagement Manager, taking over from Delphine Thizy after her six wonderful years in the project. I will be based out of the Imperial College campus in Silwood, UK 

I am a strategic communications and stakeholder engagement specialist with ten years’ experience working with the Government of Tanzania and multinational organizations operating in East Africa, the US and the UK. Prior to joining Target Malaria, I was Senior Manager for Strategic Communications at Gatsby Africa, a philanthropic foundation set up by David Sainsbury to support East African governments to achieve economic growth in key sectors that offer opportunities for value addition, job creation and income generation.

 

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If we want to make malaria eradication a reality by 2050, innovation and new tools are essential, as suggested by the WHO and the Lancet Commission. Target Malaria is working to achieve this goal by developing novel genetic technologies to reduce the population of malaria mosquitoes in Africa. The project aims to develop genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes that would impact the density of mosquitoes by affecting their reproduction. As research progresses at the Crisanti Lab at Imperial College London, the teams at Polo of Genomics, Genetics and Biology (PoloGGB) in Italy are studying GM mosquitoes in laboratories that mimic the mosquitoes’ natural environment. They assess the population dynamics and they use mathematical models to predict the length of time during which the modified mosquitoes will persist in the population.

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In 1897, Sir Ronald Ross made a discovery that would change the world forever: he proved that mosquitoes were responsible for transmitting malaria between humans. World Mosquito Day, celebrated every year on August 20, marks this fundamental discovery.

To celebrate World Mosquito Day, I would like to take you on a virtual tour of our laboratories and insectaries around the world.

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International Youth Day is commemorated on August 12. This year’s celebrations will raise awareness of the need to make institutions more inclusive to enable youth engagement in formal political mechanisms. The 2020 theme is Youth Engagement for Global Action, and it could not have been a better choice. It reflects the unique qualities youths bring: resilience, activism and leadership for change and sustainability.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is adding pressure to already stretched health care systems worldwide. Low and middle-income countries are experiencing significant challenges when resources are scarce. Years of progress in the fight against malaria, ebola, HIV and Tuberculosis could be lost.

The Lancet Global Health just released a paper authored by a group led by Alexandra Hogan[1] entitled: “HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria: how can the impact of COVID-19 be minimised?”.

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This year’s Sustainable Development Report  analyses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), rather than just reporting progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.  

The world is facing its worst public health and economic crises in a century. The pandemic is having a severe negative effect on most of the goals, mainly threatening the progress made towards decreasing poverty, inequality, hunger and increasing health, well-being and economic growth in recent years. COVID-19’s impact is not the same among countries or individuals, but one thing is clear: no one is exempt.  

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The 2010-2020 decade witnessed a renewed call for action to scale up the fight against malaria. While recent World Malaria Reports indicate positive trends towards reducing malaria cases, they caution that progress towards zero malaria remains slow and accelerated change is necessary. The next decade 2020-2030 is a crucial one as many commitments made in the last decade to eliminate the disease are working with a 2030 deadline. This includes the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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Ever since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have been scrambling to mitigate its social and economic effects, as well as find treatments and vaccines to save lives and protect their population. Even though some countries are reducing lockdown measures and re-starting their economies, the number of cases and victims continue to increase in several parts of the world, in particular in malaria-endemic countries.

The sense of urgency to prevent and treat other communicable fatal diseases has changed, as time and financial resources are diverted to find vaccines and treatments to coronavirus. According to The Global Fund, three-quarters of 106 countries reported disruptions on current programmes to prevent and treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

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On June 30th, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is celebrating its 15th Anniversary. PMI, one of the most prominent organisations fighting malaria worldwide, was created by the former-US President George W. Bush, back in 2005. Since then, the initiative has been working to give children a healthy childhood and break the cycle of disease and poverty in places where malaria is endemic.  

During the last 15 years, PMI played a vital role in providing financial and technical resources. In 2019 alone, they spent USD$ 729 million in initiatives across 24 countries in Africa and three different programmes on the Greater Mekong Subregion in South East Asia. Altogether, these regions represent 90% of the global malaria burden.  

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Crisanti lab on lockdown

The Crisanti lab has been accustomed to facing difficult and unexpected situations threatening our mosquito colonies, such as drastic failures in the system that controls temperature and humidity in the insectary, and the spread of microsporidia infections. We never would have imagined that a pandemic was next on the list!    

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, on 18th March 2020, Imperial College announced that only essential research and operational activities would be permitted, and that building access would be restricted. Gone were the days of a 22-strong team of researchers; new regulations stipulated no more than 5-6 people in the insectary facility and a mandatory two-week quarantine for those showing COVID-19 symptoms.  

Thankfully, the Crisanti lab was prepared: in February, as the virus hit the UK, we had put together a science-saving plan with military precision.

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