By HENRY OWINO
The world has witnessed unprecedented progress in the fight against malaria, yet history demonstrates that the risk of malaria resurgence is real if political commitment weakens, funding wanes or technical challenges go unaddressed.
Sustained investment is required to maintain progress, avoid losing the gains of recent years and advance the malaria elimination agenda.
The remarks were made by Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria, on November 19, 2018 calling on countries to step up their efforts and investment to end one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases.
The RBM made the remarks in conjunction with World Health Organization (WHO) at the launch of a report on study about World Malaria Report (WMR) 2018.
The report cautions that malaria is creeping back in the highest-burden areas, with 70 percent of the world’s malaria concentrated in 11 countries, of which 10 are in Africa. These are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and India.
These findings provide a loud wake-up call, signaling that without deliberate action, the positive trajectory of the malaria fight over the last 15 years could change course.
Funding for the global malaria response in 2017 grew slightly, but more domestic and international investment is needed to close crucial gaps in access to proven, life-saving malaria interventions.
This is according to RBM and WHO report at the launch of the WMR 2018 announced simultaneously in Maputo and Geneva.
This is along with “High Burden to High Impact: A Targeted Malaria Response,” a new country-led effort, catalyzed by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, in conjunction with the WHO, to get the malaria fight back on track.
The RBM is a global framework partnership to implement coordinated action against malaria. It mobilizes for action and resources and forges consensus among partners.
Therefore, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria is the largest global platform for coordinated action towards a world free from malaria. The partnership is comprised of than 500 partners committed to end malaria, including malaria endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions.
RBM document explains: “The RBM Partnership is composed of a multitude of Partners that join the Partnership on a voluntary basis through their commitment to the Vision of a world free of malaria. So, RBM has worked across the field of malaria eradication by helping to build public awareness, aggregate and share technical information with a system of global stakeholders, and mobilize funding.”
Since its inception in 1998, the RBM Partnership has played a critical role in global efforts that reduced malaria deaths by over 60 percent compared to the highest points of the malaria crisis in the early 2000s and saved 7 million lives. The Partnership is now committed to building on these significant gains and ending malaria for good.
According to Dr Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, Board Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, it is unacceptable that people in half the world’s countries still fear death by mosquito bite while the other half are nearing a life free of malaria.
Dr Mpanju-Shumbusho says the World malaria report calls for a decisive response, one that is owned and led by the countries most affected by the disease and support by global partners.
“Success in high burden countries will translate to success globally. The actions we take now are essential to increasing funding, identifying greater efficiencies and tailoring the optimal mix of tools to get malaria efforts back on track.” Dr Mpanju-Shumbusho suggests.
According to this year’s World Malaria Report, the rate of change has slowed, however, and while signs of progress continue in half of all malaria-affected countries, malaria is creeping back in some of the highest-burden areas.
“Urgent action is being taken by countries, and supporting their efforts is essential to protecting hard-earned progress and reigniting progress toward the goal of ending malaria. There has never been a better time to invest in malaria and next year’s Global Fund Replenishment is a critical opportunity for renewing global investment in the malaria fight,” says the WMR document.
In countries nearing elimination, the pace of progress is quickening, 46 countries reported fewer than 10,000 indigenous cases in 2017, up from 37 countries in 2010.
The document discloses that this year, Paraguay became the first country in the Americas to eliminate malaria in 45 years. In addition to the same world malaria report 2018, 11 countries are on track for elimination in the next two years.
On the other hand, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and Rwanda are among countries that recorded strong declines in malaria cases this year, offering models from which other countries can learn. In particular, India marked a 24 percent decline in malaria cases between 2016 and 2017.
The new country-led “High Burden Response” is an aggressive approach that will get the global malaria effort back on track to meet elimination goals by 2025 and 2030.
However, to achieve this, it is based on four key elements which include: Turning political commitments into resources and tangible actions to save more lives of the most vulnerable populations; More timely and granular data to help countries use limited resources for maximum impact; Improved and targeted policies and strategies will empower countries to tailor the optimal mix of tools for a range of settings and A coordinated country response that aligns partners and engages sectors beyond health.
As a result of this report, global investment in the malaria fight, including a successful Global Fund Replenishment, is an unquestionable prerequisite for achieving the ambitions of this new approach.
“There is no standing still with malaria. The latest world malaria report shows that further progress is not inevitable and that business as usual is no longer an option,” said Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.
“We must move quickly to step up efforts and continue progress for all countries toward ending malaria for good. Fortunately, there has never been a better time to invest in malaria, and next year’s Global Fund Replenishment will be a critical opportunity for investment that will help us get back on track with fighting one of the most pressing health challenges.” Dr Admasu reiterated.
Remember the bottom line to all these ideas is an aggressive approach of “High Burden to High Impact: A Targeted Malaria Response” as global effort back on track to eliminate malaria within the stipulated timeframe.