Africa marks the fourth anniversary of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement, with 25 countries now part of the grassroots-led campaign to accelerate action on the continent to end malaria.
The anniversary follows significant commitments from endemic countries at the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), held on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 last week, where malaria and NTD-affected countries committed over US $2.2 billion in domestic resources as part of their Global Fund counterpart funding towards ending these diseases. End Malaria Councils and Funds from five countries (Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Namibia, Mali, and Malaw) announced a commitment to mobilizing US $100 million to support malaria control and elimination.
Launched by the African Heads of State and Government in 2018 and jointly coordinated by the African Union Commission and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Zero Malaria Starts with Me – an Africa-wide, country-led movement – looks to reinvigorate existing political commitment, accelerate action, mobilize resources and increase accountability to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030.
The past year has seen significant momentum for the movement, with five new countries – Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Namibia, Mali, and Malawi – all adopting the campaign to drive action against malaria over the past 12 months. Further highlights include:
- Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative launched in Uganda: In March 2022, Ecobank Uganda launched the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative (ZMBLI) and joined the Malaria-Free Uganda board, announcing a contribution of US $120,000. ZMBLI aims to mobilize private sector companies in the fight against malaria in Africa to achieve a malaria-free continent within a generation.
- First ever regional Malaria Youth Strategy published: The strategy, launched by the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) in 2021, was developed to provide a framework for engaging youth leaders across Africa to act against malaria. A continent-wide ALMA Youth Advisory Council with 11 youth leaders was also created, alongside Kenya’s first national Youth Army.
- 300 signatures secured for March to Kigali petition: In the lead up to the landmark Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which took place last week, several Civil Society Organizations from various West African countries launched the March to Kigali campaign in April 2021. To date, more than 300 signatures have been secured calling to step up the fight to end malaria and NTDs in Africa.
- Senegal, Benin, and Burkina Faso launch National Advocacy Plans: 50 individuals from the public and private sectors and civil society are driving forward the development and rollout of the plans in each country.
Country leadership and commitment has led to tremendous progress against malaria over the past two decades, with targeted investment saving an estimated 10.6 million lives and preventing 1.7 billion cases. Other key country-level achievements as part of the movement over the past year include:
- Sierra Leone: Hosted its second Youth Summit in May 2022, where over 50 youth advocates came together to build their capacities around advocating for malaria and NTDs.
- Ghana: Launched a series of Zero Malaria Starts with Me advocacy videos, broadcasted widely on national television.
- Cameroon: In addition to launching a national advocacy campaign under the theme of ‘Stop Malaria’ as part of its Zero Malaria Starts with Me launch, it rolled out a national Parliamentarian task force, a national Mayor’s task force, and the civil society task force to promote malaria messaging in partnership with religious and community leaders.
- Benin: Held a high-level event for World Malaria Day 2022, presided by Mariam Chabi Talata, Vice-President of Benin, and attended by Parliamentarians, CSOs, and private sector companies.
25 countries in Africa are in the process of establishing national End Malaria Councils and Funds to drive multisectoral support for the fight against malaria. EMCs have mobilised millions of USD of financial and in-kind support. EMCs and Funds have raised US$23 million in additional resources towards malaria elimination, particularly from the private sector, proving themselves to be effective mechanisms to fund existing resource gaps in National Malaria Control Programmes. This is in line with HE President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy goals as Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA).
H.E. Amb Minata Samaté Cessouma, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union Commission said: “We are at a critical juncture in the fight against malaria. Significant progress has been made with African Union Member States demonstrating strong leadership and commitment. However huge challenges remain, including mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on access to essential malaria services. African countries have increased domestic investments in the fight against malaria including mobilization of resources from the private sector. With over 45 per cent of countries having launched Zero Malaria Starts with Me, we are seeing a steady trajectory towards strengthened multi-sectoral action for increased action, resource mobilization and promotion of accountability.”
Dr. Corine Karema, Interim CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said: Over the past four years, the Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement has played a critical role in mobilizing all members of society – from governments to communities, civil society and private sector organizations – to play a part in the fight. Against the backdrop of disruptions of essential services and supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic and plateauing of funding, rapidly increasing population and widespread biological challenges such as insecticide and drug resistance, the work to eliminate these diseases has stalled and even reversed in some countries.
“The response to COVID-19 has demonstrated African countries’ leadership and ownership in strengthening their public health systems and adapting new delivery approaches of malaria control interventions. More resources and commitments must be mobilized by all sectors so that we can all reach our goal of ending malaria.”
Elisa Desbordes-Cissé, Head of Ecobank Foundation, commented: “We must increase malaria funding and expand the effort beyond the Ministry of Health and international donors, particularly by harnessing the power of the private sector. Smart and targeted investments can transform Africa’s response to malaria, and the establishment of the End Malaria Councils and Funds are an important example of how countries can cover the existing malaria funding gaps that hold us back from achieving the continental goal to end malaria by 2030.”
Mariam Chabi Talata, Vice-President of Benin said: “Action is essential to succeed in the elimination of malaria. It requires an enormous number of resources hence the need for public and private, internal and external partners.”