“Technology and innovation play a key role in the fight against malaria. Monitoring tools, as well as modeling and mapping malaria data, help us to better understand the disease and to fight”, believes the former president of Tanzania
“When I was a kid, my brother died of malaria. If he had contracted the disease today, it would probably still be alive. This is the story of millions of Africans. It is something that our children should not live. We have made extraordinary progress, but we cannot stop now. The eradication of malaria in Africa is in sight,” he says. If you are interested in the current research on malaria, you look at this photo gallery.
Decline in malaria
Significant progress made over the past fifteen years in the fight against malaria. Since 2000, a 60% reduction in the rate of mortality due to malaria helped save approximately 6.2 million lives. At the same time, the rate of mortality due to malaria fell by 66% on the African continent for all categories of age and 71 percent among children under five years. Through modeling, the World Health Organization pointed out that the United Republic of Tanzania has reduced malaria cases by 50 to 75% between 2000 and 2015. Yes, we are moving a lot.
The effects of an effective treatment
When I was President of Tanzania, I was told that in a province of the country, 70 percent of children were missing school because of malaria. I sent my Minister of health on the spot to verify this, and I was surprised when he came back to tell me: “Yes, it’s well true. “There is an epidemic of malaria of unimaginable scale.” I then contacted the Ambassador of the United States in Tanzania, the members of the Initiative against malaria of the President and other partners, and together, we sent a team of doctors who have set up a camp in this province to come to the end of the problem. We have used three main types of interventions: combination artemisinin to effectively treat malaria, distribution of ITNs lasting insecticide, and the spraying of insecticide to effect Sticky inside dwellings. The following year, the school had reached 90%.
The importance of concerted action at the scale of the continent
If you effectively treat malaria in a country, but not in the neighboring country, you will be able to control the disease, but parasites will return from the neighboring country. I have discussed this with Ray Chambers, special envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in charge of malaria in New York, and in September 2009 at the General Assembly of the United Nations, eight African heads of State joined me to launch the ALMA. Today, we have 49. ALMA focuses on the elimination of malaria in Africa by 2030. ALMA now meets twice a year at the summits of the African Union and relies on the ALMA score cards to track progress and actions. Whenever the ALMA meets, leaders see scores cards updated for their country. When there is too much red on their scorecard, they realize they still have work to do. This helps them maintain their commitment. This kind of interventions contributed to the acceleration of the remarkable progress that we have seen in the last ten years. With the ALMA, we demonstrate that when we heads of State and Government involved and we guide the process, we get results.
A consensus of African heads of State
When you go into hospitals, plenty of beds are occupied by patients with malaria. African leaders first found the impact on our communities when adults are too sick to go to work and that children who have a fever are unable to go to school. Malaria has a devastating effect on our country. The promise of an Africa without malaria is something that motivates us all.
Yes, this is the main objective of the ALMA. The World Health Organization recently reported that six African countries (Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa, and Swaziland) could eradicate malaria by 2020. The adoption by the African Union of the framework catalytic to eliminate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa by 2030 defines a path towards the elimination of malaria in all countries by 2030. We must continue to do what works and at the same time to support innovative tools and approaches to combat this disease. All this requires, of course, national and international financing. We need a more “national responsibility” and national funding, as well as ongoing support of the international community to achieve our goals.
Role of innovation
Technology and innovation play a key role in the fight against malaria. Monitoring tools, as well as modeling and mapping malaria data, help us to better understand the disease and fight it. Tests for malaria Diagnostics fast help health professionals, especially in rural areas, to perform in a minimum of time to specific diagnoses before administration of the treatment. Research is ongoing regarding other innovations (like a pill dose that could rid a person of all parasites, or even block the transmission of malaria), as well as other interesting innovations to the level of the vector control, which could speed up our progress towards the eradication of this disease.
More necessary finances
When I became President of Tanzania, the overall annual health budget was about $ 250 million. At the time I left office, he had risen to $ 1.1 billion. Cameroon, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and other countries have also increased their national funding to combat malaria. And of course, the problem is more complicated for the poorest countries which have very few resources. It is where international aid is essential.
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Role of the international community
The fight against malaria has benefited from strong leadership and strong global partnerships. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria has played an important role in the progress made so far. The Initiative against malaria by the President of the United States, the Department of international development of the United Kingdom, the Bill & Melinda Gates and Foundation Unitaid, which plays a role in the transformation of the market to make it more affordable and more accessible, were support and basic partners in the fight against malaria, with many other donors and partners. We must continue to work to stay the course and to overcome this disease.
Impact on women and girls
In Africa, malaria is one of the leading causes of death among children and pregnant women. Every two minutes a child dies of malaria. Progress against malaria have greatly contributed to reducing the number of child deaths and maternal morbidity on the African continent, but no mother should endure the pain of losing a child because of a mosquito bite. It is possible to prevent and treat malaria. This disease is very serious for families, it prevents the adults from work and children to go to school, and it contributes to the cycle of poverty in our communities. Eliminate malaria is beneficial to us all.