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Statement on International Women’s Day 2019

African Leaders Malaria Alliance Statement on International Women’s Day

08 March 2019

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance joins the international community in commemorating International Women’s Day which is being celebrated under the theme “think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. The theme focuses on innovative ways in which the world can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women including social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. As we celebrate the day, a considerable number of women on the African continent are at risk of malaria and do not have adequate access to prevention and treatment. Pregnant women have an increased risk of severe illness and anaemia. We cannot end the malaria epidemic if we do not address gender inequity, increase smart investments and innovate new tools to prevent, diagnose and treat women and children who are disproportionately affected. We must increase our investments in primary health facilities and strengthen resilient community and health systems that can better manage and respond to malaria.

There are several outstanding challenges across Africa limiting programme achievements, including weak health systems; gaps in the uptake of available interventions; low per capita investment on malaria; and the threat of resistance to medicines and insecticides. The latest world malaria report estimates that there were 219 million cases of malaria in 2017. The 10 highest burden African countries saw an estimated 3.5 million more malaria cases in 2017 compared with the previous year. Africa accounted for 93% of all 2017 malaria deaths. The fact that mothers and children continue to succumb to this preventable and curable disease is unacceptable when we have the science to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

To defeat malaria, we need a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early diagnosis and treatment in our communities. Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria for pregnant women and Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets given during Ante Natal Care visits are critical interventions that we should ensure are implemented comprehensively, where recommended by WHO. Strengthened surveillance systems will help us identify areas or population groups that are most affected by malaria and allow better targeting for maximum impact.

All these measures require African Governments and the private sector to increase domestic investments in malaria. The World Malaria Report released in 2019 estimates that in 2017, an estimated US$ 3.1 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally. Nearly three quarters (US$ 2.2 billion) of these investments were spent in Africa. Governments of endemic countries contributed 28% of total funding (US$ 900 million). Although funding for malaria has remained relatively stable since 2010, the level of investment since 2017 is far from what is required to reach the first two milestones of the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030, that is, a reduction of at least 40% in malaria cases and deaths by 2020.

In response to the stalling progress African Heads of State and Government with the support of the African Union, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance launched the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign in July 2018 to reignite action, advocacy and accountability at all levels. In February 2019, the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted the 2018 African Union Malaria Progress Report . The Report will now be produced annually to help track progress on the continent. ALMA will continue to support efforts to fully realize the African Union Assembly Decision on the Report that includes establishing national End Malaria Councils and Malaria Funds to galvanise political commitment and increase domestic investments from the public and private sectors along with increased utilisation and uptake of national malaria control and elimination scorecards and action trackers by AU Member States to drive action and accountability.

Joy Phumaphi
Executive Secretary
African Leaders Malaria Alliance