28 Oct 2013
MIM Chair, Prof. Rose Gana Fomban LEKE

It’s been 14 years and we are back in Durban. How many of us here today vividly remember the second Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) conference that took place in Durban in 1999? At the first meeting in Dakar, Senegal in 1997, about 150 malaria experts gathered to discuss and identify the major research questions that needed to be answered in order to address the growing problem of malaria. Since the picturesque city of Durban, we have convened in Arusha, Tanzania in 2002; Yaoundé, Cameroon in 2005; Nairobi, Kenya in 2009 and here we are at the sixth MIM in Durban.

The MIM Conferences provide a unique platform to discuss advances in malaria research and control, share best practices of what is going on in the various areas of malaria research, engage in debate, establish networks, foster collaborative relations, and meet friends, colleagues, program managers, young students, and experienced researchers.

The benefits of working together outweigh our individual efforts.  It’s been a decade and a half of promoting global coordination and collaboration in malaria research. In these years, MIM has been influential in strengthening knowledge transfer between malaria research and control, raising awareness of the malaria burden, and attracting funds to develop malaria research capacity in Africa. Some 56 African principal investigators working at 33 institutions across Africa have received grants involving national and international collaboration and projects with potential to impact local malaria control.

With each grant awarded, funds were allocated to support masters and doctoral training. A total of 107 PhD, 96 MSc, and 15 MPH students were trained within the projects. The projects also offered new skills, competencies through workshops, and attachment to more advanced laboratories. Some of the projects contributed to the pool of evidence that informed national decisions on antimalarial treatment policy, strategies for malaria control, and insecticide resistance.

The MIM has also created opportunities for interaction between scientists across Africa, the United States, Europe, and Asia. The meetings have grown in size and quality, making it the convener of the largest malaria gathering in the world. What an amazing trajectory over the last 15 years! Once again, this strong pool of researchers, program managers, and bilateral and multilateral institutions are facilitating discussions on malaria research and control, sharing results from studies, sharing best practices, and forging new collaborations.

We have stood together in the last 15 years—committed to turning the tide against malaria—and this has been our major strength. To put a definite dent on the scourge of malaria, we must be fully committed and continue to work relentlessly.  We have a moral and political obligation to deploy the tools we have today to fight malaria and to invest in the development of better tools for tomorrow.