(Photo: Amref Health Africa)
April 25, 2016 – Today, Amref Health Africa marks World Malaria Day, an international day established to raise awareness and understanding of malaria, its implications, as well as what we do to fight against the disease. Significant progress has been made globally in the fight against malaria, and measures such as improving the use and availability of insecticide-treated nets, involving communities in malaria education and control, and equipping community health workers with appropriate tools have already resulted in positive results. The reality, however, remains that despite the progress, malaria is still responsible for a significant proportion of the health care burden in Africa, affecting the most vulnerable population – young children under five, and pregnant mothers.
Since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, global efforts to widely distribute insecticide-treated nets, improve diagnostics and access to treatment saw a significant reduction – 65% -in malaria-related deaths. Despite the huge gains, however, a thousand lives are still lost to malaria every day across Africa. The WHO’s global strategy aims to reduce the current number of cases by 90% by the year 2030. Some key steps need to continue to be taken.
One of these steps is the distribution and use of insecticide-treated nets to communities, which so far provided the biggest success in reducing malaria cases. We now know that about 55% of the population in Africa sleeps under insecticide-treated nets.
Residual spraying of insecticide has been quite effective too, both driven by government or done regularly by individuals in their homes. Beyond that, we have made great progress in diagnostics; for many years, identifying malaria involved a microscope, a service that was not available in many rural health facilities, making it inaccessible for many people. The design and deployment of rapid diagnosis test kits, which are inexpensive and easy to use with minimal training, has contributed significantly to correct diagnosis and treatment of malaria. Together with WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapy, these measures have brought down malaria-related deaths significantly.
While we celebrate these successes, it is worrying that funding for malaria has declined in recent years. Amref Health Africa believes that strengthening health systems and training of health workers to tackle these and other health challenges are important, but we will also continue to ensure provision of nets, test kits and artemisinin combination therapy. If we do not continue the onslaught on malaria, we risk rolling back and losing all the gains made so far.
Amref Health Africa is in a unique position in Africa to understand the challenge of malaria. We are headquartered in Africa and are currently working with governments in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia to strengthen health systems in order to reduce death and illness caused by malaria.
Amref Health Africa was awarded A1 Ranking by the Global Fund for its high project performance and contribution towards improvement of health outcomes at the community level and is Principal Recipient of the Global Fund for Malaria and TB, working with communities in the endemic area of western Kenya to improve case management, treatment, surveillance and also to train communities on prevention of malaria.
We are calling on the world and national governments to continue funding malaria programs so that together, alongside other players in the health care and development sectors, we can safeguard the gains made and move towards the total eradication of malaria.
We know that to achieve the WHO Global Malaria Strategy by 2030, we have to reduce the cases of illness and death caused by malaria by 90%. It is estimated that to do this, we will need to triple the current budget, which is about US$2.7 billion dollars, to about US$9 billion. Using a combination of domestic resources through government and private sector as well as global funding we can ensure that the work we have started continues and that we end malaria for good.
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