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Oman aims for malaria-free status with competent microscopists

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In an effort to increase the Sultanate of Oman's eligibility to submit a request for a World Health Organisation (WHO) certification of malaria-free status, which necessitates the availability of technicians skilled in malaria microscopic diagnosis, the Ministry of Health (MoH) recently trained 24 national participants in the Malaria Lab of the Public Health Laboratories in Al Watayah. The training, which took place from January 8 to 19, aimed to qualify the participants to obtain External Competency Assessment for Malaria Microscopists (ECAMM) certification.

In this regard, an event was held on Thursday at the Muscat Holiday Hotel by the Public Health Laboratories of the MoH's Directorate General of Disease Control and Surveillance in cooperation with the WHO office in the Sultanate of Oman. It was hosted by Dr Saeed bin Harib al Lamki, Under-Secretary for Health Affairs, and the presence of Jean Jabbour, the WHO Representative in Oman.

Participants were divided into two groups of 12, and after the course, each group was assessed by external certified assessors for a period of one week. Those who passed the assessment were granted ECAMM certification.

Malaria remains one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. In Oman, since 2011, there have been no indigenous cases of malaria except some introduced cases reported annually, explained Dr Hanan al Kindi, Director of Central Health Laboratories.

“In the absence of indigenous cases observed in Oman between 2011 and March 2019, the country is eligible to ask for certification of malaria elimination. The MoH is adapting a vision to Sustain Prevention of malaria Oman. The detection of malaria parasites by light microscopy remains one of the important reference methods for diagnosis of malaria,” she said.

Speaking about the competency of staff in the ministry, Dr Hanan assured that “Quality assured microscopy is a key factor for accurate diagnosis. The effectiveness of malaria microscopy depends on maintaining a high level of staff competence and performance, ensuring quality laboratory facilities at all levels and regular external assessments”.

She added that ECAMM courses are the most internationally well recognised method of external competency assessments certifying for thousands of malaria microscopists at L1 and L2. For the next stage, we aim to send some participants who have Level 1 ECAMM certification, to go through the next level of TOT five-days workshop to become a facilitator for training our national scientist.

The WHO representative in Oman noted that the goal of the global malaria community and WHO is a world free of malaria. Countries will gradually achieve this vision by eradicating malaria from their national borders and putting in place practical controls to prevent the transmission. Dr Jabbour emphasised the crucial role that microscopists play in malaria programmes as well as the importance of their diagnostic and technical abilities in both curative services and disease surveillance, highlighting the need for sound training in malaria microscopy that meets today's high standards.

The competency assessment was conducted by two external experts from Kenya, and participants were certified from Level 1, the highest level of competence, to Level 4. The certification issued upon completion of the ECAMM course is valid for two years.

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