On Thursday 22 April 2021, global health company Vestergaard once again formed part of a panel discussion, hosted by The Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) and its partners to discuss lessons and opportunities in the fight against Malaria.
Taking place only days before World Malaria Day, the second instalment of the three-part webinar series highlighted how countries and businesses have adapted their health programmes in the battle against malaria in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting opportunities for collaboration to scale up malaria control efforts and impacts. Michael Joos, Chief Executive Officer of Vestergaard reminded the participants that long-lasting insecticidal nets are the backbone of malaria control programmes on which additional interventions are layered. With the pandemic causing a steep decrease in malaria diagnosis and treatment, this tool is more critical than ever before to avert malaria deaths.
“COVID-19 has placed significant pressures on malaria programs. The humble bednet is quite literally holding-up the fort”, said Joos. “However, growing mosquito resistance to insecticides used on bednets are also making them less effective. New generation bednets with new insecticides must be brought to market quickly,” he continued.
There is a significantly higher level of complexity involved in the R&D process, the polymer science and the manufacturing of new generation bednets. A renewed engagement between private sector, donor organisations and malaria programmes of endemic countries can help mitigate the risks and costs involved. “To bring new generation nets to communities that need them will require a more strategic level of interaction between private sector and the institutions buying and deploying these innovations at scale,” advised Joos. “By fast-tracking the regulatory pathway to market, improving tools to evaluate bednet performance in real conditions of use, and ensuring faster adoption of new nets at scale, the malaria community can not only save time and money, but also improve impact,” he said.
While innovation efforts to increase bednet effectiveness are underway, it is not too soon to also consider how the sustainable manufacturing of bednets can protect both people and planet. Bednets and their packaging are predominantly made of polymer plastics -major pollutants to the environment. Vestergaard proudly announced that they had now developed the technology to make bednets out of 100% recycled and upcycled material – without compromising on quality – making it possible to save lives, and the planet. Joos also pointed out that more should be done to ensure at risk populations use bednets more frequently. “The community has a long way to go to bridge these challenges and therefore we call for a collaborative effort between technology players like Vestergaard, global funders and malaria programme coordinators to find new and innovative solutions to these challenges”, he said.
As the panel discussion came to a close, CAMA launched the End Malaria Project, which serves as a call to action for greater collaboration and coordination to achieve a common goal. “It is encouraging to see how the community has already stepped up to continue and accelerate efforts against malaria despite the obstacles. Vestergaard applauds the End Malaria Project initiative, which seeks to galvanise support towards reducing the incidence and prevalence of malaria in Nigeria,” concluded Joos.