PMI VectorLink Wins Social Impact Award

A PMI VectorLink spray operator prepares the insecticide tank for spraying. Photos by: Arnaud Rakotonirina

The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Project recently won the 2021 Clark Abt Award for Outstanding Social Impact, the highest award given by Abt Associates.

Working across 24 countries in Africa as well as Cambodia and Colombia, the PMI VectorLink Project protects more than 31 million people a year from malaria by equipping countries to deliver safe, cost-effective, and sustainable indoor residual spraying (IRS), insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), and other life-saving malaria vector control interventions. The project is implemented by Abt Associates in partnership with Population Services International and PATH along with the support of Liverpool School of Tropical MedicineMalaria ConsortiumInnovative Vector Control ConsortiumMcKinsey & Company, Inc., EnCompass LLCBAO Systems LLCDigital Globe, and Dimagi, Inc.

When COVID-19 began spreading rapidly across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on countries to continue malaria services to prevent further strain on health systems. Preventable malaria cases would compete with COVID-19 cases for hospital beds and medical attention. Countries battling the fight against malaria are often the same countries that struggle with overburdened health systems. Populations frequently have limited access to safe, affordable, and adequate health care.

Tens of millions of lives were at stake. Heeding WHO’s call was essential, and PMI VectorLink needed to continue implementation while also protecting frontline workers, staff, partners, and beneficiaries from COVID-19. Contending with border closures, national lockdowns, and serious delays and drastic cost increases in the production, supply, and delivery of malaria commodities, the project successfully carried out 16 high-quality, timely IRS campaigns and helped to distribute nearly 6 million ITNs, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project quickly identified ways to adapt implementation of a variety of vector control activities to the COVID-19 context through innovative approaches, allowing for minimal disruptions in implementation of life-saving vector control interventions while mitigating the risk of project activities to beneficiaries and project staff.

Malaria kills more than 400,000 people every year, and millions more fall sick from this vector-borne disease. Young children and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable. Healthy populations contribute to healthier economies, which can translate into stability and peace in a country, region and the world. When children are healthy, they can go to school, and parents, particularly women, who are most often the family caregivers, can focus on income-generating activities. Malaria protection also allows countries’ health systems to allocate funds to emerging health crises, such as COVID-19, rather than malaria.

PMI VectorLink’s senior management team (Bradford Lucas, Allan Were, Mariandrea Chamorro, Angela Sanchez, Kathryn Stillman, Aklilu Seyoum, and Peter Chandonait) accepted the award on behalf of the project. Named in honor of Abt Associates’ founder, the annual Clark Abt Prize recognizes a project that has had significant social impact. In 2014, the PMI Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project, the predecessor to the PMI VectorLink Project, also won the Clark Abt Prize. Learn more here.