More than 35 African countries are attending this year’s National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) Best Practice Sharing Workshop in Ethiopia to acknowledge the progress made in managing malaria, particularly at the community level.

Entitled “Empowering Communities: The Heart of Malaria Control”, it is convened by Novartis and brings together national and international malaria leaders to discuss key topics and challenges, according to a statement received in Accra on Tuesday.

Novartis, with support from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), has built a workshop programme that addresses the needs of multiple malaria partners and explores how efforts to combat malaria can be expanded.

The statement said the objective of the workshop was to exchange lessons learnt from different models of community case management of malaria among countries and to determine how the gains that had been made could be sustained in the current economic climate.

“We are delighted to launch the 11th NMCP workshop that will address key topics based on the needs of our malaria partners,” said Thomas Teuscher, Interim Executive Director, Roll Back Malaria, hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“It’s imperative that we listen to the key challenges for all those active in the fight against malaria to ensure that we deliver outputs from the workshop that provide benefits to all the countries and organisations involved .”

One of the core sessions will focus on the evolving malaria funding landscape.

The statement said at a time of global economic uncertainty, partners were calling for malaria to continue to be a priority so that the unprecedented but fragile gains that had been made could be sustained and expanded.

“While it is important that development aid continues to be provided for national malaria control programmes, it is also crucial that African countries increase domestic spending on malaria to ensure we achieve our ambitious target of near zero malaria deaths by 2015,” said Dr. Melanie Renshaw, African Leaders Malaria Alliance.

“African communities are increasingly empowered to deliver quality integrated healthcare at a local level to ensure a sustainable approach to the management of this disease.”

Other topics that will be discussed during the workshop include the evolution of the SMS for Life programme (which uses text messages to improve the quality of malaria management by accurately reporting stock levels of anti-malarials and other products) and safeguarding the future of African children by delivering child-friendly anti-malarial formulations.

Since the first pioneering workshop in 2006, NMCP Best Practice Sharing Workshops have been held in South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Rwanda, Zambia and Benin.

These meetings facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practice between countries, highlighting successes and challenges, raising awareness of new initiatives, and discussing practical solutions to the barriers to malaria prevention and treatment.