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Message of Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa at the occasion of the World Malaria Day 2011

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Today, 25 April 2011, it gives me great pleasure to join in celebrating World Malaria Day under the Theme: ‘‘Achieving Progress and Impact''.

At the special event on Malaria held on 22 September 2010 in New York during the UN Summit on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon declared: "As we assess progress on the MDGs, our record on malaria stands as an example of successful implementation and effective collaboration”. We in the African Region want to echo this statement and say: ‘Together, we can achieve more’.

This year’s celebration marks the end of the UN Decade to Roll Back malaria. It affords us an opportunity to renew our common vision and commitment as we look forward and aim at attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Malaria, by its complexity involving health as well as environmental and socioeconomic determinants and consequences, relates virtually to all the MDGs. As it is well known, our part of the world is home to an estimated 795 million people exposed to malaria. Close to 90% of deaths due to malaria worldwide occur in Africa. The poor, children, pregnant women, people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of unrest and disasters and non-immune travellers are particularly vulnerable. Therefore, progress in the fight against malaria in Africa is critical to reaching the ambitious targets set in the UN Secretary General’s call for Universal Access to essential interventions, the AU Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action, Resolutions of WHO Governing Bodies and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP).

In this regard, it is encouraging to note that malaria control alliances are being strengthened throughout Africa. For example, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has committed to support elimination of preventable malaria deaths by 2015. The African Union and Regional Economic Communities have also kept malaria high on their health and development agenda.

Countries and partners are making commendable efforts to accelerate and sustain progress in malaria prevention and control in our Region. For example, endemic countries have reflected malaria control in their poverty reduction strategies. Programme reviews are ongoing and strategic plans are being updated to take into account funding and capacity gaps to reach universal access. The success rate for malaria proposals for the Global Fund (GFATM) reached 80% in Round 10. Consequently, effective interventions including protection from the mosquito vector through the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and Indoor Residual Spaying (IRS), prompt treatment of malaria cases using Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnant women (IPTp) and infants (IPTi) are being adapted and scaled up.

Cross-border initiatives are catalyzing efforts to accelerate and sustain control and, where possible, to prepare for the transition to pre-elimination. The Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm) has been launched in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda to ensure access to quality ACTs in private sector facilities. Malaria vaccine trials are ongoing in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.

By the end of 2010: 11 countries (Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania) had registered more than 50% reduction in malaria cases and deaths; the proportion of households owning at least one insecticide treated net (ITN) was 42% and 35% of children under five years of age slept under an ITN; 27 countries had reported implementation of Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) so that 73 million people accounting for about 10% of the population at risk of malaria in the Region were protected by IRS; 33 countries had adopted a policy of parasitological testing of all suspected malaria cases and 35% of malaria cases in the Region were confirmed by a diagnostic test.

To consolidate the gains achieved so far, we need to ensure: rigorous governance to strengthen performance and accountability; mobilization of additional resources; linking disease programme development and health systems strengthening; better coordination of stakeholders and partners under national stewardship; and effective involvement of every exposed individual and community. Among the critical challenges that countries need to address are: weak surveillance, monitoring and evaluation capacity; inadequate operational research platforms; lack of implementation of regulatory measures such as the ban on oral Artemisinin-based monotherapies and inadequate monitoring of parasite resistance to antimalarial medications and mosquito resistance to insecticides.

WHO will continue to work with Member States and partners to mainstream malaria control in health and development policies and plans; mobilize domestic and external funding; foster public private partnerships, support alignment of stakeholders around country priorities and provide guidance and assistance to ensure efficient use of resources for performance and impact. We shall also continue to support initiatives for the removal of taxes and tariffs on malaria commodities, and a ban on the marketing of oral artemisinin monotherapies.

I call upon Governments, parliamentarians, Nongovernmental Organizations, the private sector, civil society groups, faith-based organizations and all exposed communities to take stock of our common achievements and mobilize financial and human resources in a decisive push to further accelerate malaria prevention and control for the socioeconomic progress of countries of the African Region.

I thank you