A new digital platform for data-driven malaria responses in Africa
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, announced the progress that has been made in responding to malaria amidst the COVID-19 public health emergency. This was during the third annual Africa Malaria Progress Report on 11th February, 2021 held through a virtual press conference. Since the launch of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign in 2018 by African Presidents, 19 countries have adopted the initiative. The public-facing campaign calls for communities and leaders to take personal responsibility to end malaria.
“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic WHO predicted a doubling of malaria deaths if severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines were experienced. While we are now experiencing the second wave of the pandemic, I am delighted to say that through the strongest in-country leadership, this predicted doubling in malaria deaths was averted,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted access to essential malaria services. However, African countries averted malaria by ensuring that around 160 million insecticide-treated nets were distributed door to door, indoor residual spraying took place as planned and more children than ever before were reached with preventive antimalarial medicines in areas of highly seasonal transmission whilst following COVID-19 protocols.
‘While the targets in the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030 are bold and ambitious, I am encouraged by the significant progress that is being made. We should continue the big push for new funding initiatives with a focus on domestic financing such as End Malaria Funds and End Malaria Councils, increased roles for the private sector, invest in new innovations and tools and above all maintain the political commitment, shared responsibility and global solidarity’ said Her Excellency Mrs. Amira El Fadil, the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission.
President Kenyatta also launched the ALMA Youth Army Strategy that puts young people at the centre of the malaria fight in line with continental commitments including the African Youth Charter and the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth. The instruments give priority to youth development and empowerment. At the same event, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria launched the Draw the line Against Malaria campaign, which seeks to tap into African Youth creative talent and deploys novel digital ways of doing business to end malaria that will significantly contribute to the vision set out in the ALMA Youth Strategy and the priorities that young people put together during the Africa malaria youth consultative process.
“Countries held the line against malaria in 2020—this year we must draw the line for good. The Draw the Line against Malaria campaign will create a unifying, ground-breaking and inspiring global platform to capture youth and public imagination, rally communities and leaders behind the crucial fight to rid our continent of this deadly yet preventable disease,” said Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.
The ALMA Scorecard Hub was also launched by President Kenyatta, which is already being used in over 40 countries to track progress of key health indicators, ensuring that policy-makers and citizens have access to critical health data and that health workers, local governments and communities are well informed to act. The tool is also critical in efforts to drive accountability and actions to achieve the targets set to eliminate malaria by 2030, end Neglected Tropical Diseases and improve maternal and child health on the continent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of investing in and strengthening health systems and the need to work together to find solutions; and the response has set a challenge, to apply the same vigour, in the fight against malaria, for Africa to accelerate the elimination of malaria by 2030.