Today, 25April 2008, the first World Malaria Day is being commemorated globally under the theme: “Malaria – a disease without borders”. Concurrently, the African Region is celebrating Africa Malaria Day, under the slogan: ‘‘United to Combat Malaria” This slogan underscores the urgent need to scale up malaria control interventions.
In countries where malaria is highly endemic, priority should be given to accelerating implementation of cost-effective interventions and strengthening surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems to enable us to measure progress. The benefits of scaling up interventions are already being reaped in countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Sao Tome & Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Togo. In Rwanda, strong commitment and investment, since 2005, has led to the distribution of 3 million Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets (LLINs) and constant supply of medicines for Artemisinin-based combination therapy in health facilities. As a result, in 2007, outpatient malaria cases among all age groups fell by 36%, malaria admissions decreased by 55% while malaria deaths dropped by 35% .Cross-border initiatives such as The Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative between the governments of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland have helped reduce malaria transmission in target areas. These successes show that coordinated support, increased financing and intercountry initiatives are critical for making a good impact. We must systematically document and share these best practices.
We must recognize that the vision of eliminating malaria will only become reality through countrywide implementation of interventions. That will require improved governance and accountability, increased advocacy, better communication, social education and mobilization, and predictable and sustainable financing from governments and development partners In this regard, coordination of the efforts of all stakeholders in the public and private sectors and in civil society is crucial. There is need to strengthen health systems and community-based interventions Improved partnerships are needed to sustain and consolidate achievements.
Accelerating progress in the continuum from malaria control to malaria elimination will require increased resources for thorough analysis and appropriate response to implementation bottlenecks and for rigorous monitoring and evaluation of performance
That is why we must be ‘‘United to Combat Malaria”.
Let us unite our efforts to ensure:
- that all those at risk of malaria including children, pregnant women, people living with HIV and AIDS, refugees and displaced people, victims of environmental disaster and civil strife in our Region have access to Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets;
- that, where appropriate, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) with effective insecticides is applied;
- that malaria can be promptly and correctly diagnosed;
- that patients receive timely treatment using life-saving Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs).
- that every pregnant woman has access to prevention and treatment to protect herself and her unborn child from malaria.
We encourage all Member States, partners and stakeholders in malaria control to build upon our common achievements and adjust to the changing malaria landscape in order to accelerate the improvement of health in the African Region.
Let us all be ‘‘United to Combat Malaria”
Dr. L. Samba/AFRO (Brazzaville, Congo)
WHO Regional Director