Director’s note: Roly Gosling returns to MEI headquarters in San Francisco following two years in Namibia
After two years based in beautiful Windhoek, Namibia, my family and I have relocated back to our home in San Francisco. My two years in Windhoek provided me with an excellent opportunity to be at the frontlines of the malaria fight and to provide direct support to our many partners in the region. In particular, I had the opportunity to support the advancement of several of MEI’s operational research projects focusing on identifying and treating malaria in high-risk populations, testing new highly sensitive diagnostics in low-transmission settings, and testing the integration of evidence-based parasite and vector strategies.
Three weeks ago, my family and I started an uncertain journey, leaving Windhoek during a COVID-19 “shelter in place” order and navigating through five airports and four airplanes to relocate my family back to San Francisco – and into yet another “shelter in place” order. What an education! We managed with just a few hours’ notice to get onto a US Embassy organized charter flight out of Namibia to Lusaka, then on to Addis to Dulles, and finally San Francisco. Throughout Africa we were screened for fever with fantastic technology, provided with hand sanitizer, and told to keep our distance. The countries we passed through seemed to be doing an excellent job preventing COVID-19 cases from being imported across their respective borders.
Now back in the US – and already missing friends and colleagues in Africa – I am (virtually, of course) settling back into the Malaria Elimination Initiative headquarters, and it is great to be back at helm of such an innovative group. Tomorrow is World Malaria Day, and it is excellent to see progress continuing to be made in developing innovative interventions and ideas about how we should work to move the needle towards elimination and how we can learn from other fields of health. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is casting a shadow over the gains we are making and threatens the delicate progress that has been made in reducing deaths and illness caused by malaria, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa. We are working hard to maintain our support for malaria endemic countries during this time, as they aim to prevent resurgences in malaria cases and deaths that can so easily occur when a global health emergency like COVID-19 overwhelms existing health systems. As an organization, the MEI is applying the learnings of our current work and partnerships, adapting to the changing global health landscape, and ensuring our work is responsive and targeted in order to optimize our public health impact. We stand in solidarity with you all.
All the best,