Malaria is a complex parasitic disease confined mostly to tropical areas and transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles.
According to the World Health Organisation, efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria have gained important momentum over the past 15 years, and have resulted in the global malaria mortality rate being reduced by 60%, thus saving an estimated 6,2 million lives.
That being said however, an annual shortfall in funding threatens to slow down progress, particularly across Africa where high-burden countries are facing critical funding gaps.
Most malaria deaths still occur in sub-Saharan Africa of which the majority occurs in children younger than 5 years of age. Therefore, it is important for the world to work together towards the ultimate elimination of this killer disease.
Read:Take care against malaria
The Medical Research Council & University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control (MRC & UP CSMC) is a fully integrated, multi- and trans-disciplinary, interfaculty initiative.
The aim of the Centre is to coordinate and promote collaborative research on safer and sustainable malaria control and management, and generate new knowledge and support new activities pertaining to safe malaria control in Africa.
Travel with Flair (TWF) is a leading, award winning, travel solutions company with more than 20 years in the industry with six hubs across South Africa, has joined forces with the MRC and UP CSMC to create the app.
World Malaria Day (WMD) is commemorated annually on 25 April. Various groups across the globe take part in an assortment of WMD activities. This year’s theme for WMD is 'End Malaria for Good'.
Read: Swaziland likely to be first to eliminate malaria in southern Africa
Bringing an ending to malaria is not a dream but a reality; however, it will take various strategies and a combination of safer and sustainable alternative methods in order to eliminate the disease completely with the eventual global aim of eradication.
This year the MRC & UP CSMC is focusing on “Malaria Communication” for WMD. Researchers at the Centre believe that trans- and multi-disciplinary research is key in addressing malaria control and elimination.
According to Prof Tiaan de Jager, Director of the MRC & UP CSMC, involving malaria communities is key to their strategy. In addition there is a need to reach out to travellers, visiting malaria endemic areas.
Mobile applications (APPs) are enabling easier communication in general. It is therefore, a modern tool that could aide in the fight against malaria.
The ‘Malaria Buddy’ APP focuses on both collaborating institutions’ respective “clientele” namely the people living in malaria endemic areas and travellers or holiday makers moving in or through malaria endemic areas respectively.
At first the APP appears to be very basic with information on the disease, how to prevent getting sick, map of malaria areas, and what to do if you suspect you have malaria.
Snapshot of the Malaria Buddy App by UP CSMC and TWF Travel
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However, phase two of the APP aims to make use of GIS technology in order to make the APP a ‘GPS’ to malaria hot spots and treatment options, simply by using the phone’s location, and therefore, your travelling ‘Buddy’ when in malaria areas. The idea behind this specific APP, designed by a Software Developer at TWF, is the brainchild of the son of one of the MRC & UP CSMC’s members, Prof Walter Focke.
Prof Focke is a Chemical Engineer at the University of Pretoria, whose malaria research started after his son and grandson contracted the disease. Prof Tiaan de Jager, Director of the MRC & UP CSMC approached Prof Focke in 2011 and together they discussed the potential of collaborating on research to end malaria, and that is where the Centre originated.
Humble beginnings for a Centre that now boasts a DST and NRF South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control of Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, an initiative in Integrated Vector Management headed by Prof Leo Braack, was awarded an MRC Collaborating Centre for Malaria Research and now also signed an MOU with Goodbye Malaria as part of a Centre of Excellence for Malaria Research in Mozambique.
The APP is available to download on the iTunes store for iOS devices and Google play for Android devices.
What is Malaria?
What are the symptoms and signs of malaria?
Can malaria be prevented?