OPINION PIECE By: Dr. Benjamin Djoudalbaye, Acting Head, Division of AIDS, TB, Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases, African Union Commission; and Head of Policy and Health Diplomacy at Africa Centers…
Niger Launches Continental Campaign to End Malaria
Niamey, 25 October 2018 – Niger on Thursday last week launched the Zero Malaria Starts with Me, a continent-wide campaign to end the disease as a public health threat by 2030. Endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the 31st Summit of the African Union in July 2018, the campaign is an initiative of the African Union and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria to engage all members of society towards the elimination of the disease. The meeting brought together various players in the malaria community in Niger, the Roll Back Partnership, the African Union Commission, the Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance, ministers, members of the diplomatic corps and various key stakeholders.
“I declare launched the pan-African campaign, Zero Malaria Starts with Me in Niger. Long live multilateral cooperation for a Niger without malaria! It is critical that we mobilise leaders, communities, the private sector and the media at various levels to fight this disease, which is the main cause of morbidity and mortality in Niger and a threat to economic development,” said Dr Idi Illiassou Mainassara, the Minister of Public Health of Niger.
Niger has made the fight against malaria a priority in its national health policy in line with the Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030 and the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria (2016–2030). Based on successful campaigns in Senegal, Cameroon, and across Africa, the campaign supports countries in building multisectoral partnerships to fight malaria. The campaign will build awareness, engage the private sector to mobilise resources, advance community led initiatives and high level political commitment.
In Niger the campaign is being championed by the First Lady, Her Excellency Hadjia Aïssata Issoufou. Through the “Guri Vie Meilleure” Foundation she has supported the government malaria elimination agenda through the mobilisation of preventive treatment. She has also been instrumental in advancing the elimination agenda at the sub-regional level as Ambassador of the initiative for the elimination of malaria in eight countries of the Sahel.
“The Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030 provide clear milestones and targets to end Malaria as a public health threat. We need to increase domestic investments and strengthen weak health systems that pose a very high risk to malaria control and elimination in Africa. The Zero Malaria Starts With Me campaign will fast track the implementation of National Malaria Control Programmes and ensure that our countries remain on track,” said Dr. Marie-Goretti Harakeye who is the Head of AIDS, TB, Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases at the African Union Commission.
African countries need to ensure that there is universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment; transform malaria surveillance into a core intervention; harness innovation and expand research and strengthen the enabling environment.
The World Malaria Report 2017 warns that initiatives to eliminate malaria are at the crossroads. Funding has stagnated and progress has stalled, putting millions of lives at risk and compromising decades of investment. Overall, the African continent accounts for over 90% of the global burden of malaria. While in some countries the number of cases of the disease and related deaths has increased by more than 20% since 2016, others show that it is possible to reach the end of it. There remains a major gap in coverage of interventions and services including suspected malaria cases that are not investigated with a diagnostic test. Annual investment per person at risk remains very low and the funding situation is currently not sustainable as countries continue to rely on external funding for much of their program financing. Domestic funding of malaria programmes in Africa remains unacceptably low.