African Union commits to fight Malaria

Non-Aligned Movement has focussed its attention on the health problems of the developing world as it believes that addressing them are pivotal in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One pertinent health problem is addressing Malaria. In this context, NAM has welcomed the adoption of the United Nations resolution A/RES/72/309 on consolidating gains and accelerating efforts to control and eliminate malaria in developing countries, particularly in Africa by the year 2030 and has also welcomed the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 of the World Health Organization, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015.

The African Union, most of the Member States of which also subscribe to the ideology of the Non-Aligned Movement, is committed to address the challenges of the health problems posed by Malaria. On the occasion of World Malaria Day on April 25, 2021, African Union Member States committed to maintain their focus on the fight against malaria even as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to test the limits of health infrastructure at the country level. Africa accounts for over 90% of the global malaria burden. The disease primarily affects young children and pregnant women, causing over 400,000 deaths and 200 million cases.

Amira Elfadil Mohamed, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union Commission (AUC) remarked: “Today, the African Union Commission 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”.

One of the key mechanisms of the African Union Commission to fight malaria is the Zero Malaria Starts With Me Campaign, which is implemented in partnership with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) and Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria. The African Union Commission and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria launched the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” movement across the African continent during the 31st African Union Summit in July 2018. This movement was based on a campaign originally launched by the Ministry of Health and Social Action of Senegal in 2014 in partnership with Speak Up Africa and PATH. This now Pan-African campaign is based on three pillars: generating political commitment, mobilizing private sector engagement and financing and crucially, increasing community engagement and ownership.
In African nations, the campaign builds community ownership over malaria efforts and increases awareness of and political commitment for malaria elimination among key stakeholders to ensure it is a national priority. 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 Zero Malaria Starts With Me campaign is inspired by movements that have influenced national health priorities such as Senegal’s Zero Palu! Je m’engage campaign and the African Union’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). Co-led by the African Union Commission and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the campaign provides a model of domestic malaria advocacy that engages political leaders and influential members of society; builds relationships with the private sector and attracts new sources of funding; raises awareness and ownership about malaria prevention, testing, and care among communities; increases the visibility of malaria programmes; and increases total domestic resources available for malaria.

To date, 19 AU Member States have rolled out the Campaign, 7of which launched it in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. While more Member States are working towards launching the Campaign, the AU Commission has welcomed the collaborative effort to urge Africa leaders to step up and be a part of the zero-malaria movement.

By Dr. Pawan Mathur

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