As the global community observes the World Malaria Day today, the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) is calling for collective efforts from governments, communities and individuals to eliminate the disease. The theme for the 2023 Malaria Day, “Time to Deliver Zero Malaria: Invest, Innovate and Implement” is a reminder that the fight against malaria is far from over. Though malaria is preventable and treatable, it is still a disease of global health threat, accounting for the death of thousands of people, particularly children in sub-Sahara Africa. The WHO estimated that there were about 619,000 malaria deaths globally in 2021 with as many as 247 million malaria cases. According to the WHO, sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of all deaths. Children under 5 years accounted for about 80% of malaria deaths in Africa.
There are currently enough malaria interventions to eliminate the disease. They include, the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), Indoor Residual Spraying, Larvae Source Management and the Malaria Vaccine. With the availability such interventions, there is no reason why malaria should continue to be a major public health challenge in many parts of the world, needlessly claiming lives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The theme for the World Malaria Day, is another reminder that the need to invest more in malaria prevention and treatment is essential to control the spread of the disease and to reduce its impact on individuals, families, and communities. This includes funding for the development and deployment of new tools such as vaccines, insecticide-treated bed nets, and antimalarial drugs, as well as strengthening health systems and improving access to quality healthcare for those who are affected by malaria.
The fact that the malaria has been around for so long and yet cannot be defeated calls for more innovation in the use of current tools and introducing new ones to tackle the challenges posed by disease. New and better tools are needed to prevent and treat the disease, particularly in areas where the parasite is becoming resistant to current treatments. Research and development of new technologies and strategies, including new drugs, diagnostics, and vector control methods, are essential to stay ahead of the evolving threat of malaria.
It is not enough to have the tools to fight malaria. It is equally important for countries to ensure the effective implementation of malaria interventions to reduce the burden of the disease. This includes ensuring that malaria prevention and treatment programmes reach the most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and children under five, and that interventions are tailored to the specific needs of different regions and communities. Governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector must work together to invest in malaria prevention and treatment, innovate new tools and strategies to combat the disease, and implement these interventions effectively to reduce the burden of malaria globally.
Eliminating malaria requires a collective effort from governments, communities, and individuals around the world. As we observe the 2023 World Malaria Day with the theme “Time to Deliver Zero Malaria: Invest, Innovate and Implement”, it is important for all of us to take action towards the goal of malaria elimination. Here are some actionable steps that governments, communities, and individuals can take to help eliminate malaria:
Governments must increase funding for malaria prevention and treatment programmes. Malaria endemic countries must strengthen health systems to improve access to quality healthcare services for all, including those in remote areas. Governments should collaborate with international organisations and private sector partners to innovate new tools and strategies to combat malaria. They should implement policies and programmes that target the most vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children under five years old. It also important that governments strengthen surveillance and response systems to detect and respond to malaria outbreaks quickly.
Communities also have a critical role to play to kick out malaria. Community members should participate in malaria prevention and treatment programmes in their communities, such as sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets, test before taking antimalarial drugs. They must collaborate with local health authorities to help identify and report cases of malaria. Members of various communities should work with local leaders to promote community-based interventions, such as environmental management to reduce mosquito-breeding sites.
Behavioural change is key to the elimination agenda. It is important that individuals protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites by using insecticide-treated bed nets and wearing protective clothing. They must also seek prompt and appropriate medical care if they have symptoms of malaria.
AMMREN believes that malaria can be eliminated. A malaria-free world can be achieved with political will and all working together and taking action towards the goal of malaria elimination. We can deliver zero malaria. Let’s invest, let’s innovate and invest. Together we can make history!!!