Exploring the spatial dimensions of malaria

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May 6, 2016


Exploring the spatial dimensions of malaria

Exploring the spatial dimensions of malaria

“In Africa today, malaria is understood to be both a disease of poverty and a cause of poverty." Nevertheless, malaria is a preventable and curable disease. Fundamental is the control and management of the vector. There is a need for accurate and effective monitoring and evaluation systems as a resource to inform decisions that will assist in achieving these goals. Malaria is essentially an environmental disease since the mosquito vector requires specific habitats with sufficient surface water for reproduction, a certain humidity level for adult mosquito survival and temperature which influences the development rates of both the vector and parasite populations. Malaria risk can vary within a short distance due to changing environmental conditions.

Predictors of vector distribution

Remotely sensed images indicating environmental conditions are powerful predictors of vector distribution patterns and the average level of transmission of malaria parasites by these vectors. The range of new satellite sensors can extend remote sensing into operational disease surveillance and control. The primary objective of MALAREO was to develop technology and implement EO capacities within malaria vector control and management programs in southern Africa. To achieve this objective, knowledge exchange and capability was realized in two directions (EU <-> SA).


  • Definition of a land cover classification scheme and logic
  • Coordinating partners and realization of large-area LC mapping
  • Development of an EO monitoring system
  • Capacity building and dissemination

Support of the national malaria control programs

MALAREO stimulated the use of EO monitoring in order to support the daily work of the national malaria control programs (NMCP). The project results support the management of the control programs by providing suitable EO products to improve planning of intervention measures and by increasing knowledge to analyze the distribution of malaria cases at a local level.

Potential of application

The monitoring applications developed in the MALAREO project added an EO component to existing malaria control strategies in southern Africa. Earth observation monitoring approaches were designed to meet the user needs of the NMCPs in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, and the technical know-how needed was developed, resulting in the introduction of open-source GIS and the use of the MALAREO EO products. The outcomes of the project have high potential for operationalization, transferability to other countries and replicability for studies on other environmental related diseases. High resolution data from the Sentinel mission will continue to advance the use of EO techniques in malaria control and epidemiology, through its improved technical capabilities as well as free and open data policy. With this emerging suitable satellite technology, further efforts are necessary to raise awareness among decision-makers concerning EO benefits, and ultimately establishing EO as a ubiquitous tool for malaria monitoring.

Project partners


Funding source

European Commission under FP7; CP-FP-SICA - Small/medium-scale focused research project for specific cooperation actions dedicated to international cooperation partner countries (SICA)