Pakistan to Lead International Exchange Programme on Malaria Control

Pakistan has been selected to lead the International Exchange Programme Anopheles stephensi Africa — South Asia familiarisation Programme, marking a noteworthy stride in global health collaborations. This initiative is a testament to Pakistan’s wealth of data, expertise, and advanced control practices in malaria surveillance and control.

The Directorate of Malaria Control (DoMC), under the Ministry of National Health Services, will host a training and capacity-building programme for nine African countries. The focus of the programme will be on the surveillance and control of Anopheles stephensi, a mosquito species known for its efficiency in transmitting malaria.

Historically, Anopheles stephensi has been endemic to South Asia and parts of the Middle East. However, since 2013, it has spread to several African countries, including Djibouti, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan. This mosquito species thrives in urban environments, marking a paradigm shift in malaria epidemiology from being a primarily rural disease in Africa to potentially affecting millions of city dwellers across the continent.

In response to this growing threat, both India and Pakistan were asked to share their experience with malaria control colleagues in Africa. This collaboration is expected to significantly enhance preparedness and response activities in Africa.

Pakistan boasts highly advanced control practices, research capacity, and operational research infrastructural facilities. Selected high-level influential and decision-making candidates from affected African countries will visit Pakistan to learn from its vast experience. This visit aims to foster partnerships and collaboration in research, surveillance, and control for mutual benefit.

This initial pilot event will serve as a foundation for future exchanges with expanded objectives and outputs. It is critical to set an example, initiate partnerships, and demonstrate successful outputs and outcomes that can serve as an incentive for funding partners to support future initiatives for multi-country efforts to curb the Anopheles stephensi threat.

In May 2024, the DoMC and the Department of Entomology at Arid University will hold a week-long international training course for Molecular Mosquito Identification through PCR. The Directorate has received impressive CVs from young and energetic entomologists from the country. The aim is to enhance their capacity and involvement in vector surveillance and control.

The Directorate is in the final stages of selecting four suitable candidates from the participants. Given the close competition, efforts are underway to include 2-3 more candidates from Pakistan through local funding sources. The selected individuals will be pioneers in receiving this international training in Pakistan and will be suitable candidates for more advanced courses abroad in the near future.

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