Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Director for Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO), on Saturday said that Africa was falling short of the 2020 milestone of 40 per cent reduction in cases and deaths.
Moeti, who disclosed this in a statement to commemorate the 2020 World Malaria day, said that the continent needed to double its efforts to achieve a 75% reduction by 2025.
“On April 25, 2020, we commemorate the World Malaria Day to draw attention to the devastating impact of this disease on families, communities and societies.
“As the world grapples with COVID-19, this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of maintaining robust health systems and continuing delivery of essential health services in times of crisis.
The theme of the World Malaria Day 2020, “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, is a grassroots campaign, first launched in Senegal in 2014. It aims to engage everyone from policy-makers to the private sector to communities affected by malaria.
“African countries have led a massive effort to control the disease and Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019,’’ she said.
The WHO boss said: “However, there were still 213 million cases in the WHO African Region in 2018, accounting for 93 per cent of cases worldwide.
“Every year over 400,000 people die of malaria, and 94 per cent of these deaths occur in the African region.
“Children under five years are the most vulnerable group, accounting for 67 per cent of deaths.
“This situation remains alarming and inequitable. Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries have committed to ending the malaria epidemic by 2030.
“The e-2020 Malaria Elimination Initiative was launched in 2017 to halt rising cases, mainly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, WHOs High Burden to High Impact approach was launched in 2018.
“A year ago, pilot testing of the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTSS, started in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. So far, 275,000 children have received the vaccine,’’ Moeti said.
The WHO director noted that the action was commendable, but Africa was falling short on the 2020 milestone of a 40 per cent reduction in cases and deaths.
“We will need to double our efforts to achieve a 75 per cent reduction by 2025. Greater political commitment, accelerated investment, and more innovation in malaria prevention and control are urgently required.
“Together, we must recognise that as long as malaria exists, it threatens the poorest and most vulnerable, and has the potential to resurge in times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic facing us now.
“To build on the gains we have made, I urge countries to allocate resources to work across sectors and to strengthen cross-border collaboration to control malaria.
“With the required financing, strong coordination, dedicated partners and engaged communities, we can achieve a malaria-free Africa,’’ Moeti said.