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Malaria is preventable and treatable. Yet, the disease kills one child every two minutes. Rotarians Against Malaria, in conjunction with governments in each of its partner countries, is working to eliminate this deadly disease.

By Jenny Kerrison PhD, D.Ed.
National RAM Manager

The malaria parasite Plasmodium is carried by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes and transferred to humans during a blood meal. In malaria endemic countries, children under five; pregnant women; farmers and forest workers are vulnerable. The poor are disproportionately affected.

Globally, over the past 20 years, progress against malaria was impressive but has now stalled. The recent WHO-approved first malaria RTS,S vaccine, Mosquirix, may reduce child mortality in African nations and other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. However, Mosquirix is not a panacea for malaria. The vaccine has low efficacy, and WHO has called for the use of the vaccine with other tools for malaria prevention and treatment, to benefit from the synergistic effect of the combined interventions.

PICTURED: Peter McKenzie and RAM Project Manager Ester Kana meeting some of the locals in West Timor.

Relevant to us, progress in the Western Pacific Region (WPR) towards achieving the malaria Global Technical Strategy 2030 targets is off track.

Through generous donations from Rotarians, RAM Australia contributes to ending malaria in five countries: PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Timor-Leste and West Timor (Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia). Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and West Timor are now close to malaria elimination. In contrast, malaria is increasing in PNG and the Solomon Islands.

Working closely with governments in partner countries, RAM’s key areas of support included the provision of long-lasting insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying equipment and insecticides. This year, RAM projects included training staff and community volunteers in malaria surveillance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced funding to RAM Australia. To continue its commitment to its partner countries, in 2020-21 RAM successfully initiated and ‘brokered’ four successful Rotary global grants.

Through the West Timor grant, the Rotary Club of Hillarys, WA, is working with the Rotary Club of Kupang Central, Indonesia, and the government to train and post village malaria cadres at remote, illegal entry points along the international border between West Timor and Timor-Leste.

PICTURED: Members of the small RAM team led by Dr Jenny Kerrison (centre), including Chander Bhatia, of the Rotary Club of Kupang Central (seated right).

In West Timor, cadres will conduct home visits, test fever cases with rapid diagnostic test and treat uncomplicated malaria. RAM, in partnership with Cross Sector Development Partnerships Initiative, is also conducting community assessments across Nusa Tenggara Timur Province and Timor-Leste. The project is funded by the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance.

Results will be available to Rotary clubs interested in submitting a global grant for regencies in the Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, including West Timor.

Likewise, in the Solomon Islands, RAM Australia and RAM Solomon Islands are working with the government to conduct malaria surveillance via home visits. The ‘search for fever, test, and treat’ approach will see quick reductions in malaria incidence.

Preventing a malaria rebound will be important in the above projects.

RAM’s key message is that it costs less to eliminate malaria now than to treat severe malaria, which creates additional burden on developing countries’ already fragile health system. It is certainly less costly than the loss of lives.

Rotarians are encouraged to adopt a RAM project or learn how to apply for and manage a global grant in malaria work. Contact Dr Jenny Kerrison via national.ram@rawcs.org.au.
More info: Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) Australia is a national network that was established in the early 1990s. Governed by RAWCS Ltd., RAM Australia has expertise and contacts for malaria work in our region. RAM can help Rotarians and Rotaractors to establish and manage a Rotary global grant project. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter via ram.rawcs.com.au.