Stop malaria deaths – Group

A Pan-African media advocacy group of journalists and scientists working together to rid the world of malaria has described as unacceptable the needless deaths of thousands of people, mainly children and pregnant women, who continue to die from malaria, a disease that could be prevented and treated.

The group in a statement to commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25, each year, is urging all stakeholders to step up the fight against malaria.

The statement by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) made available to the said the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020, posed an additional challenge to the provision of essential health services worldwide and threatened to disrupt malaria prevention efforts.

It however, noted that many countries and partners working in the malaria field responded quickly and effectively to protect decades of progress made against malaria.

“The commemoration of the 2021World Malaria Day provides another opportunity for countries to focus on malaria and step up the fight against the disease, that is preventable and treatable disease, yet continues to claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year,” it said.

The theme for the Day is ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me/ Draw the Line Against Malaria’, a theme which builds on the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign movement started nearly three years ago.

According to the statement, the idea for choosing a theme similar to the one used in previous years is to highlight the successes of countries around the world and to inspire a new group of countries that have the potential to eliminate the disease by 2025.

It noted that over the past two decades, great progress has been made in the malaria fight, saving more than seven million lives and preventing over one billion new malaria cases.

“In 2019, the global tally of malaria cases was 229 million and the disease claimed some 409 000 lives in 2019 compared to 411 000 in 2018.”

“The African Region for its part continues to shoulder more than 90% of the overall disease burden,” it noted.

According to the statement, since 2000, the region has reduced its malaria death toll by 44%, from an estimated 680,000 to 384,000 annually.

However, progress has slowed in recent years, particularly in countries with a high burden of the disease.

While applauding countries and partners for their resilience in the face of adversity, the statement added that in spite of this achievement, “there is no room for complacency.”

It said the World Health Organisation’s latest World Malaria Report has noted that progress against malaria continues to plateau, particularly in high burden countries in Africa.

“The WHO report indicates that a funding shortfall at both the international and domestic levels, poses a significant threat to future gains.”

“In 2019, total funding reached US $3 billion against a global target of $5.6 billion, leading to critical gaps in access to proven malaria control tools.”

The statement noted that because of the COVID-19, there is an increase in the number of people reluctant to seek medical care when experiencing a fever, thus threatening efforts to control malaria across the continent.

It said the WHO also warns that even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a considerable loss of life.

“The 2020 World Malaria Report, for example, notes that a 10% disruption in access to effective antimalarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19 000 additional deaths in the region.”

“Disruptions of 25% and 50% in the region could result in an additional 46 000 and 100 000 deaths, respectively,” the statement added.

This, the statement added is “a worrying projection that must be taken seriously.”

“AMMREN believes that malaria can be defeated with concerted efforts by individuals and governments of countries where the disease is endemic.”

“AMMREN supports the statement of the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that it is time for leaders across Africa and the world to rise once again to the challenge of malaria, just as they did when they laid the foundation for the progress made since the beginning of this century,”

The statement is therefore urging all people living in malaria affected countries to “beat the fear”.

It urged people with a fever to go to the nearest health facility to be tested for malaria and receive the care they need, within the context of national COVID-19 protocols.”

Adding that unless countries find innovative ways to mobilize adequate resources to bridge the funding gap, malaria resurgence would likely take many more lives on the continent.

“Certainly, this is not the time for countries with a high burden of malaria to lose ground. It is important to note that malaria elimination is possible and critical to fighting other current and future diseases that may emerge.”

By Eunice Menka

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