17 November 2020
The Minister of Health of Benin, Professor Benjamin Hounkpatin, has officially launched the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign in Benin, a joint initiative co-led by the African Union and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. The campaign launch was paired with the unveiling of the complementary Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative by the Ecobank Group.
Inspired by the success of the Senegalese campaign of the same name, the African Union and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria scaled up the Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement across the continent on the 2nd July 2018. Adopted by 55 heads of state and African governments, 16 African countries have since launched the campaign on a national scale, igniting grassroots movements that seek to engage individuals, families, communities, religious leaders, business leaders, political leaders and other members of society to take ownership of the fight to end malaria.
Malaria is a significant public health challenge in Benin. The disease is the leading cause of registered hospital visits in the country and of deaths among children under 5. In 2017, over 2.3 million cases of malaria were recorded in Benin, and the country recorded 3,234 malaria-related deaths last year. The prevalence of malaria varies across regions, from just 17% in coastal regions up to 51% in more rural areas. Four in ten children in Benin tested positive for malaria between 2017 and 2018.
“Through the launch of this campaign, the Ministry of Health will be able to reinforce the prevention, prioritization and ownership of malaria among all members of society at the national level, through the three pillars of the campaign; political, private sector and community engagement”, comments Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.
The Ministry of Health launched the national Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign in Benin, to fulfil the commitment made by His Excellency Mr. Patrice Talon, President of the Republic of Benin, to the African Union and to accelerate efforts to eliminate this preventable and treatable disease. The official launch ceremony for the campaign and the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative took place on the 17th November 2020 at the Hotel Azalaï Cotonou.
“Malaria is the main reason why people seek health care in Benin, representing 42.8% of new healthcare consultations. Furthermore, the disease represents 52.3% of all hospitalizations and is responsible for 19.3% of deaths in Benin. This dismal picture suggests that, despite our daily efforts, malaria remains a serious public health problem. It is therefore clear that every one of us must now take on this challenge and equip ourselves to face up to this dreadful scourge, in order to diminish the destruction it brings to our households”, comments Pr. Benjamin I. B. Hounkpatin, Minister of Health of Benin.
The Zero Malaria Start with Me campaign’s objectives also include mobilizing the financial resources required to end malaria and driving momentum among communities though education and igniting ownership of malaria control interventions.
To help deliver these objectives, the Ecobank Group launched the ‘Zero Malaria Business Initiative’, in partnership with Senegalese policy and advocacy action tank, Speak Up Africa, earlier this year. The initiative aims to promote the mobilization of resources at the national level to sustainably finance the fight against malaria, and to engage the private sector to join the fight against the disease. To help facilitate private sector contributions to public health issues, particularly the fight against malaria, the Minister of Health therefore insisted on the creation of new mechanisms to encourage public-private partnerships, which he has deemed essential to achieving this goal at the national level. The Minister of Health has therefore announced the launch of a Zero Malaria matching fund, which will be established to inspire innovation and finance ambitious malaria control interventions across the country.
Driven by its conviction that eliminating malaria requires contributions from all sectors of society, Ecobank became the first contributor to the Zero Malaria matching fund following the announcement, generously contributing 60 million CFA francs.
“Eliminating malaria will increase prosperity across Africa over the longer term, fostering a healthier workforce that spurs economic growth. The Ecobank Group is delighted to collaborate with Speak Up Africa, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the African Union by spearheading the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative and providing a platform for coordinated action against this preventable and treatable disease,” concluded Mr Komi Lazare Noulekou, Managing Director of Ecobank Benin.
The pan-African Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement and the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative aim to tackle the challenges posed by the disease in Benin and accelerate efforts to end malaria, a preventable and treatable disease which caused over 400,000 deaths worldwide in 2018 – 90% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.