By Aisha Tamba
The World Health Organisation regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has said that there were 213 million malaria cases in the African Region in 2018, accounting for 94% of cases worldwide.
“Every year over 400 000 people die of malaria, and 94% of these deaths occur in the African Region. Children under five years are the most vulnerable group, accounting for 67% of deaths. This situation remains alarming and inequitable,” Dr Moeti revealed in her Malaria day statement to the region.
The theme for this year is “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, and Dr Moeti said this year’s theme is a grassroots campaign, first launched in Senegal in 2014, which aims to engage everyone from policy-makers to the private sector to communities affected by malaria.
”On 25 April 2020, we commemorate World Malaria Day to draw attention to the devastating impact of this disease on families, communities and societies. As the world grapples with COVID-19, this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of maintaining robust health systems and continuing delivery of essential health services in times of crisis.”
She warned Covid-19 could resurge malaria death toll in Africa.
“Together, we must recognize that as long as malaria exists, it threatens the poorest and most vulnerable, and has the potential to resurge in times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic facing us now.”
She added that through the Sustainable Development Goals, countries have committed to ending the malaria epidemic by 2030.
”The E-2020 Malaria Elimination initiative was launched in 2017 and to halt rising cases, mainly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO’s High Burden to High Impact approach was launched in 2018. A year ago, pilot testing of the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS’S, started in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. So far, 275 000 children have received the vaccine.
”This action is commendable, but we are falling short on the 2020 milestone of a 40% reduction in cases and deaths. We will need to double our efforts to achieve a 75% reduction by 2025. Greater political commitment accelerated investment, and more innovation in malaria prevention and control is urgently required.”
She urged countries to allocate resources, to work across sectors, and to strengthen cross-border collaboration to control malaria.
”With the required financing, strong coordination, dedicated partners and engaged communities, we can achieve a malaria-free Africa,” she said.