History of malaria control in Rwanda: implications for future elimination in Rwanda and other malaria-endemic countries

Malar J. 2020 Oct 7;19(1):356. doi: 10.1186/s12936-020-03407-1.


Background: Malaria was first reported in Rwanda in the early 1900s with significant heterogeneity and volatility in transmission over subsequent decades. Here, a comprehensive literature review of malaria transmission patterns and control strategies in Rwanda between 1900 and 2018 is presented to provide insight into successes and challenges in the country and to inform the future of malaria control in Rwanda.

Methods: A systematic literature search of peer-reviewed publications (Web of Knowledge, PubMed, Google Scholar, and the World Health Organization Library (WHOLIS) and grey literature on malaria control in Rwanda between 1900 and 2019 was conducted with the following search terms: "malaria"", "Rwanda", "epidemiology", "control", "treatment", and/or "prevention." Reports and other relevant documents were also obtained from the Rwanda National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP). To inform this literature review and evidence synthesis, epidemiologic and intervention data were collated from NMCP and partner reports, the national routine surveillance system, and population surveys.

Results: Two hundred sixty-eight peer-reviewed publications and 56 grey literature items were reviewed, and information was extracted. The history of malaria control in Rwanda is thematically described here according to five phases: 1900 to 1954 before the launch of the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP); (2) Implementation of the GMEP from 1955 to 1969; (3) Post- GMEP to 1994 Genocide; (4) the re-establishment of malaria control from 1995 to 2005, and (5) current malaria control efforts from 2006 to 2018. The review shows that Rwanda was an early adopter of tools and approaches in the early 2000s, putting the country ahead of the curve and health systems reforms created an enabling environment for an effective malaria control programme. The last two decades have seen unprecedented investments in malaria in Rwanda, resulting in significant declines in disease burden from 2000 to 2011. However, in recent years, these gains appear to have reversed with increasing cases since 2012 although the country is starting to make progress again.

Conclusion: The review shows the impact and fragility of gains against malaria, even in the context of sustained health system development. Also, as shown in Rwanda, country malaria control programmes should be dynamic and adaptive to respond and address changing settings.

Keywords: Control; Epidemiology; History; Malaria; Rwanda.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Eradication / methods*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Malaria / history*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Malaria / transmission
  • Rwanda