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Getting to Know the Enemy

African Voices: Clive Shiff, PhD

Clive Shiff, PhD

Associate professor, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology; principal investigator, JHMRI MIAM Project

Macha, Zambia

Photographed on January 15, 2006

Clive Shiff was born in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1930 and began his career working on a malaria control program as a medical entomologist in Zambia (called Northern Rhodesia at the time). By coming to Macha, Shiff says he's returned to his "old stamping grounds." There, on a Sunday morning in January, Shiff muses on the possibilities of controlling malaria across Africa.

“The sad thing about all this is that eradication failed. Eradication is a program that ends because once you have eradicated the disease you no longer have any more to do. That was the concept WHO had in the 1950s and '60s, but it didn't work. Eradication can't work on a continental basis like this because you may succeed in bringing malaria to the brink of eradication in a certain area, but the movement of people from other areas will ensure the parasite is reintroduced.

Each country needs to commit to a national malaria control strategy that can be sustained in perpetuity. You want to protect the centers of population and economic importance where you get the most bang for your buck. You want to focus there on transmission control. The distribution of drugs with proper diagnosis is the next tier. Then you can expand from there as funds become available. The key is developing a localized strategy that can be sustained by the government under their own resources. The difficulty is you have to sustain for the long term.

It has been done, and it can be done. It requires political stability, political and financial commitment and a good scientific support system.”

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