Significant gains made in the fight against malaria but major hurdles remain in the race to defeat malaria.
Dakar, Senegal, July 7, 2023 - The African Union Commission, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), and Speak Up Africa, in partnership with the Senegal National Malaria Control Programme, joined the rest of the AU Member States in commemorating the 5th anniversary of the pan-African "Zero Malaria Starts with Me" movement. The campaign, adopted by the African Union Member States during the Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in July 2018, is now operational in 27 African countries and is dedicated to building a social movement to steer action all various levels including Heads of State and Government, First Ladies, Religious and Community Leaders, the Private sector, multisectoral ministries, Youth, Women and Girls especially in communities most impacted by malaria.
"Today, we pay tribute to all those who play an active role in the fight against malaria," said Dr. Michael Adekunle Charles, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. "We express our gratitude to governments, donors, private sector partners, civil society and communities who are supporting and actively participating in the 'Zero Malaria Starts with Me' movement. Now, more than ever, we must continue our efforts and strengthen collaboration to achieve our common goal of ending malaria once and for all."
Malaria impacts Africa the most, with the continent accounting for 96% of global malaria cases and 98% of global malaria deaths. In 2021, WHO estimates showed that 603,877 Africans died from malaria—almost 80% of whom were children under the age of five. Africa fell short of the African Union’s 2020 target of reducing malaria incidence and mortality by 40% (compared to 2015).
However, significant strides have been made due to the combined mobilization of governments, the private sector, civil society, and communities through “Zero Malaria Starts with Me.” Countries prioritized malaria interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic, sustaining coverage of life saving preventive interventions.
Countries are establishing End Malaria Councils and Funds across Africa as a multisectoral approach designed to keep malaria high on the domestic advocacy and resource mobilisation agenda. Councils have to date secured US$32 million in commitments through this innovative resource mobilization mechanism designed to attract contributions and engagement from the public and private sectors, whilst engaging partners at all levels and across all sectors in the fight against malaria. Progress has also been made in promoting youth engagement in the fight against malaria, achieved by creating a network of community malaria youth champions, the malaria youth corps. The use of digitalisation and real-time data is another key strategy, aiding in promoting accountability and action in the battle against this disease. More than 40 African countries are implementing national and subnational malaria scorecards with many sharing them through the ALMA Scorecard Hub. This approach promotes evidence-informed decision-making, accountability, and action. It is only when everyone is aware of their malaria situation that they are empowered to act. Furthermore, engagement with Regional Economic Communities in Africa has been prioritised, with the intention of keeping malaria high on the regional development and financing agenda.
"These achievements highlight the need for collective efforts and strong commitments at all levels to eliminate malaria. The holistic, multi-sectoral approach promoted by the 'Zero Malaria Starts with Me' movement helps by pooling efforts, knowledge, and resources to reduce the burden of the disease in Africa," said Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) and Board Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.
The 5th-anniversary celebrations centred on the engagement and empowerment of young people in leading the fight against malaria in Africa. As part of the event, partners held a session on youth engagement and showcased the African Union Malaria Conversation Guide for Youth, and culminated with the presentation of a youth declaration on malaria elimination.
"Engaging young people is a powerful lever for accelerating progress against malaria. Encouraging their leadership and active participation is critical to creating positive momentum for malaria elimination in Senegal and across Africa," said Dr Doudou Sene, Senegal National Malaria Control Program’s Coordinator.
The celebration, participated in by various stakeholders in the fight against malaria, included a high-level ceremony as well as a roundtable discussion on the successes, challenges, and achievements of the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” movement. An immersive painting by visual artist Laolu Senbanjo will commemorate the 5th anniversary of the movement, symbolizing the journey, achievements, and future goals of the campaign.
Through "Zero Malaria Starts with Me" the malaria partners remain committed to ensuring that every man, woman and child in Africa, regardless of their location, has access to the necessary tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat malaria. This fifth anniversary marks not just the significant strides made in the fight against malaria, but also the strengthening of African unity in the face of a common health threat.
H.E Amb. Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development at the African Union Commission, echoed that the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” movement perfectly exemplifies solidarity and united action to tackle the continent's most pressing challenges.
"By working closely with national governments, the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign has demonstrated the power of collective action against malaria in Africa. We encourage more African countries to join this unprecedented movement. Every commitment counts, and every preventive action is needed to build a continent finally free from the burden of malaria," H.E Amb. Minata Samate Cessouma added.
Zero Malaria Ends with me!