By Amira Elfadil Mohamed
World Malaria Day 2021 comes at a time when healthcare systems in Africa bear the anomalous weight of the coronavirus pandemic.
African Union (AU) member States have maintained their focus on the fight against malaria even as the pandemic continues to test the limits of health infrastructure at the country level.
I take the opportunity to recognise and appreciate all AU member States for ensuring that comprehensive approaches like education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment — that have been proven to have tangible results in the fight against malaria — have been sustained during the pandemic.
Today, the African Union Commission (AUC) joins the world to celebrate the seven million lives saved, and over one billion malaria cases averted through life-saving mosquito nets, among other interventions.
The commission has taken note of this year’s theme: Zero Malaria — Draw the Line Against Malaria, with the fullest commitment that all must work together to end malaria by 2030.
As a continent, we celebrate with great honour and pride the AU member States that have been certified malaria-free.
I encourage these member States to lead continental knowledge-sharing initiatives so that best elimination practices are exchanged and scaled up.
Africa is making headway in defeating malaria through strong political commitment, increased funding, and innovations devised to improve malaria prevention and control.
Most of the achievements have been realised through the zero malaria starts with me campaign implemented by the commission in partnership with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) and Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership to end malaria.
To date, 19 AU member States have rolled out the campaign, seven of which launched in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While more member States are working towards launching the campaign, the commission welcomes the collaborative effort to urge Africa leaders to step up and be a part of the zero-malaria movement.
The zero malaria starts with me campaign is transforming the continent’s malaria response and inspiring global action.
This campaign’s advancement and impact have demonstrated AU member States’ dedication to reach the targets set in the Africa health strategy and the catalytic framework to end Aids, TB, and eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030. The campaign’s focus is to empower the youth’s involvement in the malaria response.
The leadership of youths in Africa is crucial as young people account for 75% of the continent’s population.
Youths are the driving force of the continent.
I commend President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya for launching the digital youth malaria army initiative.
With the support of ALMA, the work of the army is shaped by strategic guidance from the ALMA youth advisory council, consisting of representatives from all regions in Africa.
Partners also have opportunities through which youth can be empowered for leadership in the fight against malaria, including the RBM digital youth workstream and draw the line against malaria youth champions.
I encourage Africa’s youth to join these initiatives to ensure their communities and peers’ voices are heard.
In conclusion, I emphasise on the critical role of multi-sectoral partnerships in achieving significant strides towards the shared goal of malaria elimination.
We need more partnerships and resources to innovate and improve surveillance programmes.
As we commemorate World Malaria Day 2021, I call on frontline health workers, partners, and leaders worldwide and in Africa to share experiences and reflections on efforts and opportunities to reach the target of zero malaria.
I reiterate that ending malaria’s scourge will have a long-term, transformative impact and save millions of lives.
The commission will continue to support the AU member States to draw the line against malaria.
- Amira Elfadil Mohamed is commissioner for health, humanitarian affairs and social development, African Union Commission