African health ministers pledge to end malaria deaths in region

With the African region accounting for 95 per cent of malaria deaths globally Ministers of Health from African countries with the highest burden have committed to accelerate action to end mortality from the disease.

The ministers, who gathered in Yaoundé, Cameroon, pledged to sustainably and equitably address the threat of malaria in the region and signed a declaration committing to providing stronger leadership and increased domestic funding for malaria control programmes.

They also promised to ensure further investment in data technology and to apply the latest technical guidance in malaria control and elimination to enhance malaria control efforts at the national and sub-national levels.

They further committed to increasing health sector investments to bolster infrastructure, personnel and programme implementation; to enhance multi-sectoral collaboration; and to build partnerships for funding, research and innovation.

The ministers expressed their unwavering commitment to the accelerated reduction of malaria mortality and to hold each other and their countries accountable for the commitments outlined in the declaration.

The Yaoundé conference, which was co-hosted by the World Health Organisation and the Cameroon government, also had in attendance global malaria partners, funding agencies, scientists, civil society organisations and other principal malaria stakeholders.

The conference had four key aims, which include to review progress and challenges in achieving the targets of the WHO global malaria strategy; discussing mitigation strategies and funding for malaria; agreeing on effective strategies and responses for accelerated malaria mortality reduction in Africa; and establishing a roadmap for increased political commitment and societal engagement in malaria control, with a clear accountability mechanism.

Minister for Health, Cameroon, Manaouda Malachie said, “This declaration reflects our shared commitment as nations and partners to protect our people from the devastating consequences of malaria. We will work together to ensure that this commitment is translated into action and impact.”

PUNCH Healthwise reports that the African region is home to 11 countries that carry approximately 70 per cent of the global burden of malaria.

They are; Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

So far, progress made against malaria has stalled in these high-burden African countries since 2017 due to factors like humanitarian crises, low access to and insufficient quality of health services, climate change, gender-related barriers, biological threats such as insecticide and drug resistance and global economic crises.

Meanwhile, fragile health systems and critical gaps in data and surveillance have compounded the challenge.

Based on reports, funding for malaria control globally is also inadequate.

In 2022, US$ 4.1 billion – just over half of the needed budget was available for malaria response.

Globally the number of cases in 2022 was significantly higher than was recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic, rising to 249 million from 233 million in 2019.

Also, in the same period, the African region saw an increase in cases from 218 million to 233 million.

PUNCH Healthwise reports that the region continues to shoulder the heaviest malaria burden, representing 94 per cent of global malaria cases and 95 per cent of global deaths, an estimated 580,000 deaths in 2022.

“Globally, the world has made significant progress against malaria in recent decades and yet, since 2017, that progress has stalled.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and long-standing threats like drug and insecticide resistance pushed us further off-track, with critical gaps in funding and access to tools to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. With political leadership, country ownership and the commitment of a broad coalition of partners, we can change this story for families and communities across Africa,” the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

He noted that to help accelerate efforts to reduce the malaria burden, WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria launched the ‘High burden to high impact’ approach in 2018, a targeted effort to accelerate progress in countries hardest hit by malaria.

According to him, the declaration signed at today’s conference is aligned with the ‘High burden to high impact’ approach, which is founded on four pillars: political will to reduce malaria deaths; strategic information to drive impact; better guidance, policies and strategies; and a coordinated national malaria response.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said, “Malaria continues to cause preventable deaths in children and great devastation to families across our region. We welcome today’s ministerial declaration, which demonstrates a strong political will to reduce the burden of this deadly disease. With renewed urgency and commitment, we can accelerate progress towards a future free of malaria.”

However, to put malaria progress back on track, WHO recommended robust commitment to malaria responses at all levels, particularly in high-burden countries; greater domestic and international funding; science and data-driven malaria responses; urgent action on the health impacts of climate change; harnessing research and innovation; as well as strong partnerships for coordinated responses.

SOURCE:PUNCH

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