A media coalition on malaria is to be set up to support the Zero Malaria Starts with Me (ZMSWM) campaign in the country as part of efforts to step up advocacy on the prevention and control of malaria.
A virtual meeting attended by founding members of the coalition made up of journalists and other stakeholders, saw over 30 participants taking part in a webinar aimed at preparing towards the launch of the coalition. It was organised under the theme: “the power of a media coalition,”
The meeting was organised jointly by the Ghana Health Service and its implementing agency, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), the Speak Up Africa organisation based in Senegal, the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) and supported by the African Union and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.
The primary purpose of the coalition is to boost the quality and quantity of media reporting on malaria and to empower journalists across Ghana to take a more active role in communications and advocacy initiatives related to malaria.
The webinar covered topics such as the fight against malaria: successes and challenges and introduction to the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General, of the Ghana Health Service, who gave a brief opening address, lauded the efforts being put in place by various stakeholders to control malaria and other diseases despite the presence and disruptions brought on by the COVID 19.
Dr Charity Binka, Executive Secretary of AMMREN, said in a presentation on the power of a media coalition for malaria advocacy and communications, that the media has a huge role in ensuring that people have access to life saving information about the prevention and treatment of malaria, adding that different types of media (print, online, radio, TV) have different reach and different audiences, which makes the idea of a coalition very important.
“If a topic is covered extensively in the media, it signals to those in positions of power and influence that it is in the public interest and that they need to pay attention to it.”
According to her, a well-informed media can help to ensure that commitments made by political figures and other stakeholders are kept and respected when such issues are constantly in the public eye.
Dr Binka touched on why there is the need for a media coalition and noted that individual initiatives of journalists on issues they care about are sometimes limited, isolated or dispersed.
She noted therefore that forming a coalition facilitates collective mobilization and dedication to a common cause such as having a group of approximately 50 committed and talented journalists from across the country, representing different media outlets.
She told the meeting that the objectives of the coalition include equipping journalists to take a more active role in communications and advocacy initiatives related to malaria and to provide committed journalists timely information to produce accurate and quality information on the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign.
According to her, the benefits of being a member of the coalition will include receiving regular documents and information to help with malaria reporting, having additional access to training and networking opportunities and also having priority in attending and reporting on events organized by the NMCP and other partners.
Dr Keziah Malm, Programme Manager of the NMCP, touched on Ghana’s malaria strategic plans for 2021to 2025 and said it is focusing on reducing malaria mortality by 90% by 2025 using 2019 as baseline.
Adding that achieving malaria pre-elimination in at least 6 districts by 2025 is also part of the strategy.
She said the objective is also to provide appropriate diagnosis to all suspected malaria cases and prompt and effective treatment to 100% of confirmed malaria cases in accordance to treatment guidelines by 2025.
Dr Malm spoke about some challenges in the fight against malaria and said the notion that malaria is a less dangerous disease cause people to attach less seriousness to it contributing to low uptake of malaria control interventions and added that the COVID 19 has drowned malaria information.
Mr James Wallen, Malaria Programme Officer of Speak Up Africa, who made a presentation the overview of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign, said the campaign draws inspiration from Senegal’s “Zéro Palu! Je m’engage” grassroots movement, where all parts of society, including the Head of State, major companies, and community champions, pledged to take personal responsibility for the fight against malaria.
He mentioned that political, private sector and community engagement as the main pillars of the campaign.
In 2018, Mr Wallen said Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Uganda and Zambia officially launched the Zero Malaria movement followed by Eswatini, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Tanzania in 2019. Adding that a total of 15 countries have now launched the campaign in Africa.
He touched on the Zero Malaria Starts with Me in Ghana, and said it is being led by the NMCP in collaboration with its partners.
“The campaign is engaging a wide cross section of stakeholders, including the media, various governmental decision makers (such as the Parliamentary Select Committee and the Ministry of Local Government) and the private sector.”
According to him, the general aim is to build a wide base of support from all sectors of society and a collective commitment to working towards malaria elimination by 2030, in line with the goals set by the African Union, to which all African Heads of States have committed.
“Some of the more specific goals of the campaign in Ghana are: to increase domestic financing of malaria from public and private sources; to improve efficiency in the way that existing funds are used at the district level; and to boost the quantity and quality of media coverage about malaria.”
Earlier, Madam Maelle Ba, Communications Manager of Speak Up Africa, who served as a moderator at the meeting threw light on the reason for the virtual meeting.