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President Sirleaf Elected to Chair African Leaders Malaria Alliance

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been elected Chairperson of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, succeeding the founding Chair, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. ALMA is an alliance of African Heads of State and Government working to end malaria-related deaths.

Addressing a Forum of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa following her election, the Liberian leader praised President Kikwete for his exemplary leadership as Chair of the Alliance. She assured the Alliance that her administration will build upon the progress that has already been made towards the eradication of malaria on the continent.

During the past decade, she said, there has been a 33 percent decline in malaria-related deaths throughout Africa, and attributed much of this success to persistent efforts by many African governments, individuals and institutions. President Johnson Sirleaf boasted of a 100 percent decline in infant deaths, but insisted that efforts must continue to achieve the desired results.

According an Executive Mansion dispatch from Addis Ababa, the President also spoke of difficulties ahead in the implementation of current ALMA programs due to a financing gap of US$3.3 billion, attributed to the global funding crisis. The gap, she said, is threatening the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including those related to malaria. The President said efforts must now be made to reverse the trend by adopting a number of measures, including the increase in budgetary resources to the 15 percent level required. The measures also include re-evaluating priorities and working with partners to ensure that they honor their commitments “to make available funding from traditional sources, and finding innovative financing methods to be able to close the gap.”

In remarks, the outgoing Chair of ALMA, President Kikwete, lauded member countries for their support. He also praised partners for their contributions and said he was optimistic that the malaria eradication program is well on course. He also praised the ALMA secretariat for its diligence and commitment to the program.

"Please continue the good work for the many men, women and, particularly, children of Africa whose lives have been saved because of the service that ALMA is providing," the outgoing Chair urged. He expressed confidence in the leadership of President Sirleaf in meeting the goals of the Alliance, "to keep malaria out of the continent with greater vigor in the shortest possible time."

President Kikwete said that zero deaths in malaria-related cases can be achieved if everyone remains focused and committed. He acknowledged that there are challenges ahead, but added that, working together with the support of friends, the goals can be achieved.

The Forum requested the Chair of the African Union, the President of the African Commission and the United Nations Secretary-General to convene a financing conference this year to bring together the world's financial leaders to address the urgent gap in funding for malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and maternal, neonatal and child health.

The Executive Secretary of ALMA, Madam Joy Phumaphi, who also spoke at Tuesday's forum, welcomed the commitment by African governments to tackle malaria. She said the secretariat will continue to work to ensure that the goals of the Alliance are achieved.

Meanwhile, a number of countries have been honored and presented certificates for their progress in the fight against malaria. Benin, Tanzania, Cameroon and Kenya were recognized for their outstanding progress in malaria control, while Burundi, Rwanda and Mozambique were honored for policy reforms in the fight against malaria. President Johnson Sirleaf presented the awards to leaders of the countries and praised their efforts in fighting malaria. She urged them to continue adopting more measures to eradicate malaria on the continent.