Evaluation of Malawi One Health platforms to help close gaps in One Health implementation in the country

The One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA), which is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), aims to improve the health of humans, animals and ecosystems through capacity building, strengthening of local, regional and global networks and provision of evidence-based policy advice on One Health in sub-Saharan Africa.

OHRECA recently completed evaluations of One Health platforms in eight countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. The evaluations aimed to identify any gaps in the use of One Health by each of the platforms examined based on a framework developed by the Network for One Health (NEOH). The NEOH tool evaluates competencies of the One Health platforms based on six criteria including One Health thinking, planning, working (operations), sharing, learning and system organization to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of national One Health platforms.

On 28 March 2022, OHRECA, together with the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM), held a one-day workshop to share and validate the results collected from the evaluation. PHIM is mandated to coordinate One Health activities in the country. The meeting brought together partners and stakeholders working across the three pillars of One Health – animal, human and environment in the country. The institutions represented in the workshop included the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Conservation Africa and Kasungu National Park.

Mabvuto Chiwaula of PHIM moderated the session. The validation was led by Fasina Oludayo and Nebart Mtika ILRI consultants. Bernard Bett, OHRECA’s team leader and senior scientist at ILRI, made a presentation about OHRECA and highlighted the meeting’s objectives. Hannah Jorgensen, a joint appointed scientist at ILRI and the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, outlined how this evaluation has synergies with the One Health work that will be done in a research project to control rabies in Malawi, led by the Norwegian Veterinary Institute.  

A day after the workshop, the ILRI team, led by Bett, visited the PHIM offices, and met with the director, Ben Chilima. Bett reiterated OHRECA’s commitment to partner with the country’s One Health work in the completion of the remaining tasks of the Malawi evaluation. Chilima said that senior management at PHIM, including the minister for health, would attend the subsequent meeting, to be organized by OHRECA, which will discuss the validated evaluation results.

The OHRECA team members meeting PHIM director Ben Chilima (far left) in his office (photo credit:ILRI).

Florence Mutua, a scientist at ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program and the focal person for OHRECA in Malawi, outlined ILRI’s research activities in the country including the collaboration with the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) to support veterinary medicine students to undertake research as part of their final-year thesis work and the recently launched project ‘Capacitating One Health in Eastern and Southern Africa (COHESA)’ which will be implemented in multiple countries including Malawi.

Mutua later visited LUANAR and met with staff at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and further discussed current collaboration.

The eight-country evaluation comes at a time when One Health is increasingly recognized as an effective approach for managing One Health challenges such as neglected and emerging zoonotic diseases, food safety, and antimicrobial resistance. Gaps identified in the evaluation exercise will be used to develop a competency-based curriculum that will improve the capacity of the platforms.