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Malaria & NTDs Q2 2023

The time is now: how innovation and investment can tackle malaria in Africa

Man setting up a drone on a field
Man setting up a drone on a field
Image provided by African Leaders Malaria Alliance

Umaro Sissoco Embaló

President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA)

Africa, the continent bearing the heaviest burden of malaria, is on a time-sensitive mission to intensify efforts to eliminate the devastating disease once and for all.

The African Union (AU) Malaria Progress Report 2022, presented at the AU summit in my capacity as the Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), reveals that progress remains stalled, with most member states off-track to achieve the AU’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2030.

Malaria across Africa

The World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2022 indicates that in 2021, Africa accounted for 96% of all malaria cases (238 million) and 98% of all malaria deaths (603,877). Nearly 77% of malaria deaths were among children under five, undermining Africa’s collective social and economic development and hindering the achievement of Agenda 2063. Despite strong political will, efforts must be accelerated to increase domestic resources and foster shared responsibility and global solidarity.

Reaching zero malaria

This year’s World Malaria Day theme, ‘Time to Deliver Zero Malaria: Invest, Innovate, Implement,’ underscores the urgent need for action and further investment to achieve zero malaria. It highlights maximising the impact of current investments by expanding existing interventions and calls for celebrating research community efforts and encouraging more investment in transformative tools.

Significant investments are required to increase coverage of key interventions and achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating malaria by 2030. In 2022, the global community’s pledge of $15.7 billion to replenish the Global Fund fell short of the $18 billion target. This, along with existing resources, is insufficient to fully support malaria programmes, particularly as member states face global inflation, supply chain disruptions and other economic challenges.

Nearly 77% of malaria deaths
were among children under five.

Resources and strategies

Upon assuming the ALMA chairmanship, I prioritised a four-point agenda emphasising multisectoral advocacy, action and resource mobilisation to close funding gaps; harnessing data for accountability and action; engaging a robust continental youth corps; and enhancing regional and cross-border coordination in the fight against malaria.

Mobilising additional resources, including from the domestic private sector, remains crucial for increasing access to long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying and rapid diagnostic tests, as well as supporting the development and rollout of new tools. This will save 20 million more lives and result in economic gains from a healthier population, ultimately ensuring a healthier and more equitable world.

To date, 12 countries have launched or announced End Malaria Councils and Funds (EMCs and EMFs), with another 13 in progress. Several have integrated EMCs into national strategies as the primary mechanism for mobilising multisectoral advocacy, action and resources and accountability. Moreover, 27 countries have launched their ‘Zero Malaria Starts With Me’ campaigns, cueing the remaining countries among the 47 impacted by malaria to urgently activate their campaigns.

Investing in malaria

Investment in new approaches and innovations, such as digital technologies for real-time data collection and analysis to guide evidence-informed decision-making, is also integral to the fight against malaria.

Africa utilises digital technologies and shares data and best practices through the Africa Scorecard Hub, promoting accountability and action across 16 member states. Additionally, over 40 African countries are implementing malaria and other health scorecards; and the continent is strengthening engagement through regional economic communities to coordinate malaria response efforts and prioritise the disease on the regional development and financing agenda. A continental ‘Malaria Youth Corps’ has been mobilised to increase youth engagement and resource commitments for malaria elimination.

The time to defeat malaria is now. Ending malaria has a high return on investment, and these investments will strengthen the capacity and resilience of health systems to respond to future epidemics and pandemics. Malaria is a pathfinder for pandemic preparedness and response. By focusing on investment, innovation and implementation, the global community can unite to eradicate malaria, save lives and ensure a healthier and more equitable world for all.

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