Border malaria: defining the problem to address the challenge of malaria elimination

Li X, Snow RW, Lindblade K, Noor AM, Steketee R, Rabinovich R, Gopinath D, Gasimov E, Alonso PL
Malar J. 2023;22

Permenent descriptor

Border malaria is frequently cited as an obstacle to malaria elimination and sometimes used as a justification for the failure of elimination. Numerous border or cross-border meetings and elimination initiatives have been convened to address this bottleneck to elimination. In this Perspective, border malaria is defined as malaria transmission, or the potential for transmission, across or along shared land borders between countries where at least one of them has ongoing malaria transmission. Border malaria is distinct from malaria importation, which can occur anywhere and in any country. The authors' analysis shows that the remaining transmission foci of malaria-eliminating countries tend to occur in the vicinity of international land borders that they share with neighbouring endemic countries. The reasons why international land borders often represent the last mile in malaria elimination are complex. The authors argue that the often higher intrinsic transmission potential, the neglect of investment and development, the constant risk of malaria importation due to cross-border movement, the challenges of implementing interventions in complex environments and uncoordinated action in a cross-border shared transmission focus all contribute to the difficulties of malaria elimination in border areas. Border malaria reflects the limitations of the current tools and interventions for malaria elimination and implies the need for social cohesion, basic health services, community economic conditions, and policy dialogue and coordination to achieve the expected impact of malaria interventions. Given the uniqueness of each border and the complex and multifaceted nature of border malaria, a situation analysis to define and characterize the determinants of transmission is essential to inform a problem-solving mindset and develop appropriate strategies to eliminate malaria in these areas.