Written by Hasifa Kabejja
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 01:50
On World Malaria Day 2011, a review of the past decade shows enormous achievements in malaria prevention and control. The goal, however, is getting to zero. Zero deaths from malaria. Today we have the tools and the operational approach to reach this goal.
Between 2000 and 2010, it is estimated that the lives of nearly 750,000 children in 34 countries were saved, and funding for malaria prevention, treatment and research increased to 1.5 billion US dollars. Between 2008 and the end of 2010 alone, a total of 289 million long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets were delivered in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 76 per cent of the total needed to reach the Roll Back Malaria universal coverage targets. In Uganda 1.3 million long lasting insecticide treated nets were distributed to the most vulnerable groups of people especially women and childred. These are impressive gains that demonstrate how strong partnerships and increased resources help us move closer to achieving the Roll Back Malaria and Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets.
However, more needs to be done. It is unacceptable that 781,000 people will die of malaria this year, the vast majority of them children under five years of age living in sub-Saharan Africa. The tools for effective prevention and treatment of malaria now exist and there are many examples of countries where strategies for using these tools show it is possible to make a significant impact on the disease. Senegal has achieved the goal of zero deaths from malaria in a project covering 1,000 villages through rapid scale up of prevention, diagnosis and treatment programmes. Senegal has a strategy for getting to zero and it is working.
In the recent Oslo Malaria Conference, Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, listed the challenges that must be addressed by a global framework for coordinated action against the disease: sustained funding, good governance, universal net coverage, more access to effective diagnosis and treatment, empowered communities, strengthening of the information systems, more research and development efforts and mobilization of all partners in support of the Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment (GPARC). “Only intensified and sustained malaria control will contribute to the achievement of six of the eight MDGs,” she said.
Malaria control is essential to achieving the MDGs by the year 2015. If current scale-up trends in malaria control – diagnosis, treatment and prevention – are maintained until 2015, 1.14 million African children’s lives can be saved in the next four years. If funding were to decrease over the coming years, the result would be a rapid reversals in gains achieved. Malaria control, and reaching the MDGs, will depend on sustained and increased funding support, as well as political commitment. Advocacy is vital because the children most affected by malaria do not have a voice.
Bekele Geleta, the Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “I am proud of the work of our volunteers in the fight against malaria. We have worked hard, and we know there is a long way to go to get zero deaths from malaria. The final battle against malaria will be fought in the most remote villages, where our volunteers work and live. We are committed to the endgame in the most hard-to-reach areas and among the most vulnerable populations.
It's through community led initiatives that we will sustain our gains to date and do more and do better to reach the MDGs.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, with its millions of volunteers, has played an important role in malaria prevention and control as a partner within Roll Back Malaria. Between 2002 and 2004, Red Cross Red Crescent supported pilot projects in Ghana, Zambia and Togo helped demonstrated that the free distribution of nets during vaccination campaigns was one of the most effective and efficient ways to rapidly increase net coverage and nightly use. Hang up campaigns, to visit households and help them to properly hang their nets, as well as to make sure they understand the importance of nightly use and maintenance of the net, have now become a standard part of net distribution in many countries.
Since 2002, working in partnership with Ministries of Health and other health agencies, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers have helped to protect over 25.5 million people with long-lasting nets, saving an estimated 420,750 lives in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers complement government health services by delivering care and support at the community level and by reaching marginalized and otherwise hard-to-reach populations.