By David Kipkorir
African leaders have launched a continent-wide Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign to drive response in the face of a setback in the fight against the disease.
The African Union (AU) Commission and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria launched the campaign in a bid to add momentum to the fight against the disease.
The RBM Partnership is the global platform for coordinated action against malaria. It mobilises resources and forges consensus among partners.
The “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, campaign—inspired by Senegal’s nationwide campaign of the same name launched in 2014—was unveiled during the AU Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, by President Macky Sall of Senegal and King Mswati III of the Kingdom of eSwatini.
The RBM says following reports that malaria cases have increased for the first time in more than a decade, the campaign seeks to reignite a society-wide movement to harness efforts that contributed to a 60 per cent decline in cases and saved an estimated 7 million lives since 2000.
The campaign aims to empower communities to take a greater ownership in malaria prevention and care and in generating additional resources.
According to the 2017 WHO World Malaria Report, 91 countries reported an estimated 216 million malaria cases in 2016, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year and 445 000 deaths. The WHO Africa Region was the most affected and accounted for 90 per cent of cases and 91 per cent of deaths.
“It is through national ownership, shared responsibility and global solidarity that we can defeat malaria for good,” declared Mswati III, who is also Chair of the African Leaders’ Malaria Alliance.
Similarly, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and chair of the AU voiced, “the campaign will reignite grassroots movements in which individuals, families, communities, religious leaders, the private sector, political leaders, and other members of society pledge to take responsibility in the fight against malaria”.
The campaign launch was welcomed by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides about 50 per cent of international financing for malaria, and has invested more than US$9•1 billion from 2002 to 2017.
Zero Malaria Starts with Me is now being rolled out across the African continent to encourage all citizens, political, business community and religious leaders, as well as individuals, families and communities to make a personal commitment to ending malaria.
The campaign has been endorsed by 55 African Heads of State and Government.
Currently, over 20 African nations have committed to join in supporting the campaign, with presidents of Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique already launching nationwide campaigns that include large-scale bed net distribution drives and establishing high-level national End Malaria Councils and parliamentary groups on malaria.
First Ladies of Ghana and Niger have pledged to do more to engage leaders and communities to fight malaria in their countries.
The campaign offers simple tools to increase participation in malaria elimination efforts, keeps pressure upon leaders to stay committed to ending the disease, and forge new partnerships that can contribute additional funding that will increase access to treatment; improve diagnosis and prevention against the deadly disease.