Experts Call for Strengthening of Vector Control in West Africa's Malaria Elimination Strategy (ECOWAS)

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A mother and her son are tested for malaria.

Cotonou — The second Technical Consultation on Malaria vector control in the ECOWAS region ended in Cotonou, Benin Republic on Thursday 30th November 2011, with wide-ranging recommendations including a proposal for well-planned and coordinated vector control measures to complement existing interventions in Member States.

This will ensure a complete and holistic regional approach for the control and eventual elimination of the disease in the region. The three-day meeting, a follow-up to an earlier one held in Accra Ghana in July 2011, recommended that the vector control measures should be incorporated into the ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Strategies. In addition to Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) and the use of Long-lasting Insecticidal nets (LLINs), they suggested that larval reduction strategies including laviciding and environmental management should be part of an integrated approach to malaria vector control in the region. The participants also urged ECOWAS to provide the enabling environment for malaria vector control interventions especially in the areas of advocacy, policy formulation, information sharing, and to stimulate and sustain political will and machinery for malaria elimination. "All programmes for integrated vector control of malaria should incorporate appropriate and relevant research agenda," the meeting said.

To ensure the efficacy, and safety of flora, fauna and man, all strategies directed at monitoring short, medium and long term effects of products such as larvicides should be an integral part of all "transfer of technology" in the relevant products for vector control, it noted. Furthermore, they said that impact evaluation should also be integrated into larviciding roll-out while arrangements should be made for Member States to produce the concept note and tools for the impact evaluation. Member States should also ensure adequate planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all existing interventions in malaria control including the use of IRS and LLIN with a view to strengthening them, as well as build institutional capacity for an integrated malaria vector control.

The meeting highlighted the need for the engagement of Civil Society groups at the national level in the implementation of malaria vector control initiatives. "There is the need for the formation of a media network which will form an integral part of an advocacy, communications and social mobilization strategy on malaria elimination at the national level and regional level," the meeting recommended. It called on Member States to support and leverage the local production of biolarvicides under the ECOWAS Commission's Tripartite Partnership Agreement with Cuba and Venezuela. Under the agreement, which is within the framework of the campaign for Malaria Elimination in the ECOWAS region by 2015, Cuba is providing technical assistance and technology transfer for local production of biolarvicides, while Venezuela is providing financial support for the construction of three biolarvicide plants in River State, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. The Cotonou meeting also urged ECOWAS to adopt the Community-Directed Intervention (CDI) approach used for the WHO-led onchocerchiasis (River blindness) eradication in Africa for malaria elimination in order to ensure active community involvement, coupled with the engagement of civil society actors, private sector and other groups, both at the national and regional levels to facilitate the implementation of malaria vector control initiatives. Cross-border collaboration in malaria vector control initiatives was also advocated using the ECOWAS free movement platform.

The Beninoise Health Minister Professor Dorothee Kinde-Gazard, who opened the meeting called for a regional integrated approach as well as combination and coordination of various interventions for effective control and elimination of Malaria in the ECOWAS region. Speaking on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency James Victor Gbeho, the Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Daniel Eklu, said the ECOWAS-driven integrated malaria control initiative incorporating the strengthening of the vector control component is consistent with the objectives of the 2000 Abuja Declaration by African leaders and the Millennium Development Goals for malaria elimination. The recommendations of the meeting will feed into an extra-ordinary meeting of West African Health Ministers on Malaria elimination scheduled for 4-5 December 2011 in Dakar, Senegal.

Participants at the Cotonou meeting included Malaria Control Programme managers, Monitoring and Evaluation, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) as well as Behaviour Change Communication experts, and Medical Entomologists. Also represented were representatives of the African Network on Vector Resistance to Insecticide (ANVR), Research Institutes, ECOWAS, World Health Organization (WHO), West African Health Organization (WAHO), Roll-Back-Malaria (RBM), biolarvicide manufacturing group, Labiofam, the Media and Civil Society organizations, including rural farmers, traders and the West African Women's Association (WAWA).

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