Local February 25, 2015 | 2:00 pm

Consortium aims to rid Hispaniola of malaria by 2020

Collaborative initiative funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant

Press Release

Atlanta, GA.- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading a consortium of malaria partners aiming to eliminate indigenous cases of malaria on the island of Hispaniola by 2020. Acceleration of malaria elimination efforts will begin with a $29.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the CDC Foundation. Hispaniola, which includes the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is the only remaining island in the Caribbean where malaria is endemic. In Haiti, where the majority of Hispaniola’s malaria cases occur, there were more than 20,000 confirmed cases in 2013.

"Elimination of malaria transmission in Haiti, coupled with eliminating the few remaining cases in the Dominican Republic, will create a malaria-free zone across the Caribbean," said Larry Slutsker, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. "This will be an historic public health milestone for the Western Hemisphere, and will greatly reduce the risk of reintroduction of malaria to nearby countries where it’s already been eliminated."

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. According to the World Health Organization, malaria caused an estimated 584,000 deaths worldwide in 2013. However, malaria is preventable and treatable. Increased investments and coordinated global health efforts have resulted in a 47 percent decrease in malaria mortality rates since 2000.

The Haiti Malaria Elimination Consortium (HaMEC) being formed through this grant will work closely with the international community and partners in Hispaniola to eliminate indigenous cases of malaria in Haiti. HaMEC includes CDC, the CDC Foundation, the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Public Health, the Pan American Health Organization, The Carter Center, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. HaMEC activities will build from the 2009 binational malaria elimination plan, improvements in malaria diagnostics and surveillance made possible by recent support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as earthquake response funding provided in 2012 by the U.S. Government.

The HaMEC organizations will collectively work to assist the countries of Hispaniola in developing, adopting, and implementing an evidence-based strategy and operational plan for achieving malaria elimination; securing the additional financial resources needed to achieve elimination; improving and refining malaria surveillance systems to support decision-making and action; and reducing malaria transmission through implementation of effective community-based interventions that are tailored to the level of malaria risk in high-prevalence areas, ultimately leading to elimination by 2020. While the grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide initial support for the malaria elimination effort in Haiti, additional financial resources will be required and sought by the consortium to achieve the 2020 elimination target.

"We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for this generous grant," said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. "Eliminating malaria in Haiti will lessen the burden on Hispaniola’s public health systems, freeing up resources to tackle other pressing health issues. Additionally, eliminating malaria will result in increased productivity and economic gains for the people of Hispaniola as well as attract foreign investment and safeguard existing philanthropic investments."

Quotes from Partner Organizations

Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population: "The Ministry of Health/National Malaria Control Program are committed to the important objective of malaria elimination, and we embrace the collaboration of partners including the Dominican Republic to engage in a productive effort that will ultimately end malaria and lymphatic filariasis transmission on the island," said Jean Frantz Lemoine, M.D., M.P.H., coordinator for the National Malaria and Lymphatic Filariasis Control Programs. (For more see www.mspp.gouv.ht/newsite/.)

Dominican Republic Ministry of Public Health: "The Ministry of Public Health and the National Center for the Control of Tropical Diseases are committed to the initiative to eliminate malaria on the island of Hispaniola. We are confident that together with the National Malaria Control Program in Haiti we can achieve this goal," said Luz Mercedes, M.D., M.P.H., director general of the National Center for the Control of Tropical Diseases (CENCET). "We hope that the partners involved in this initiative will provide support to the efforts that both countries have undertaken to reach the goal of eliminating malaria and lymphatic filariasis in Hispaniola." (For more see http://www.sespas.gov.do/front.)

Pan American Health Organization: "We laud this expression of solidarity with efforts to eliminate malaria from the only two countries in the Caribbean where transmission still exists. We are heartened that the project can also catalyze elimination of lymphatic filariasis, another vector borne disease, from the island," said Keith Carter, M.D., M.P.H., Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization senior advisor on Malaria and other Communicable Diseases. (For more see www.paho.org/.)

The Carter Center: "The Carter Center’s experience in working with the ministries of health in Hispaniola demonstrates that the two countries are committed to eliminating malaria and lymphatic filariasis, two mosquito-borne diseases, and that island-wide elimination of both diseases is feasible. This grant enables the Center to continue working with the countries and an outstanding group of partners to prevent needless suffering and stop the spread to other areas in the region," said Stephen Blount, M.D., director of the Carter Center’s Hispaniola Initiative. (For more see www.cartercenter.org/ .)

Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc.: "Malaria was very nearly eliminated from Hispaniola in the 1960s, but funding and operational planning were insufficient to get the job done. This consortium has the exciting opportunity to help Haiti and the Dominican Republic finally wipe out malaria in the Caribbean and end a disease that has been a burden there since it was first introduced 500 years ago," said Justin Cohen, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior director, Global Malaria. (For more see www.clintonhealthaccess.org/.)

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine: "We are very excited to be working with such a strong group of partners to address malaria on the island of Hispaniola. The elimination of malaria in Haiti and across the island is a very real and tangible outcome and Tulane looks forward to working with the partners to see this effort to its positive conclusion," said Thom Eisele, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of global health systems and development and director of the Center for Applied Malaria Research and Evaluation (For more see http://www.camre-tulane.org / www.sph.tulane.edu/.)

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine: "We are excited to be part of the HaMEC initiative, and we hope that eliminating malaria in Haiti will provide key information on applying optimal approaches in other malaria endemic parts of the world," said Chris Drakeley, Ph.D., professor of Infection and Immunity at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. (For more see www.lshtm.ac.uk/.)

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