His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the president of Tanzania and current chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), has written a piece for the Guardian calling on the world to step up efforts to fight malaria. Kiwete is challenging leaders to capitalise on the inroads made over the last ten years and warns nations not to become complacent. Ten countries in Africa have seen drops in malaria cases and deaths of up to 80 percent.
The 30 African ALMA countries convened with this week and set goals not only to combat the rate of incidence of malaria, but pledged to ‘halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria’ – an ambitious but laudable goal. They aim to achieve this in two ways: universal mosquito net coverage by the end of the year and increased prevention, diagnostic and treatment interventions.
Malaria is a major global health issue that perpetuates poverty and hampers development in many of the poorest countries of the world. Malaria causes nearly one million deaths around the world every year and causes an additional 189 to 327 million cases, mostly in the poorest countries. Malaria burdens poor and rural populations because infection rate is highest during the rainy season when most agricultural work is done. However, treating and preventing malaria costs much less than the economic losses that result due to those afflicted with the disease being unable to work.
It is commendable and highly encouraging to see so many African leaders come together on this issue. Their goals are reachable but, as Kiwete also points out in his article, will take a significant amount of resources to achieve. This is where the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria comes in. The Global Fund has distributed 122 million bed nets to protect families from transmission and delivered 142.4 million malaria drug treatments. The Global Fund has the capability and success rate to lead the fight against malaria. But it cannot do it without the appropriate funds. This is why it will be tremendously important for donor countries to strongly commit to replenishing the Global Fund when it has its replenishment conference October.
President Kiwete states:
We are continuing our fight to make Africa a malaria-free continent. As ALMA, Africa’s heads of state envision a future in which no African child dies a preventable death from malaria. Whether that future is near or distant depends on the joint efforts of Africa’s leaders and our national and global partners. We must make a final push for universal coverage against malaria.
We encourage readers to read the full article on the Guardian’s website and join the discussion by adding their own comments.