Harnessing innovation and advancing equity to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives

Press Release • 25 April 2022

To mark World Malaria Day, leaders, organizations and communities are coming together to stem the tide of one of Africa’s most deadly diseases.

Advocacy think-tank Speak Up Africa originally launched the Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement in 2014. Since its inception, the campaign had been launched in 23 other countries, and received an endorsement from the African Union. 

Globally, malaria remains a serious threat to global health equity. As one of the most pervasive diseases across Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria accounts for 30% to 50% of outpatient hospital visits, and approximately 20% of all hospital deaths. Furthermore, research indicates that malaria has directly resulted in adverse socioeconomic consequences.

Malaria also direly impacts future generations. As It stands, 80% of malaria deaths occur amongst African children under age five. In 2020, over 50% of all malaria deaths came from six countries: Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria, the DRC, and Uganda.

The World Health Organization (WHO) World Malaria Report noted a rise in malaria-related deaths during 2020 – thus representing roughly 69,000 more deaths, and 14 million more cases when compared to the previous year. Over two-thirds of these deaths (roughly 49,000) occurred due to disruptions in malaria care due to COVID-19.

« Every two minutes, a child dies from malaria. This troubling fact is a stark reminder that we must redouble our efforts for malaria elimination. With new tools, such as the advent of a malaria vaccine, the prospect of achieving this goal is within our reach. »

Yacine Djibo, the Executive Director for Speak Up Africa

The Zero Malaria Stars with Me campaign has been supported by a multitude of governments, partners, and organisations alike. Currently, Speak Up Africa is supporting the national malaria control programs (NMCPs) of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal in implementing the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign.

Each country is celebrating World Malaria Day in its own way. For example, Benin hosted a nationwide TV program, which featured the Ministry of Health, civil society organizations, Ecobank, as well as technical and financial partners. In addition to this, the country held a march to garner awareness of the impact of malaria in Cové, an area ravaged by the disease. 

Since its regional launch in July 2020 by Ecobank, Speak Up Africa and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative (ZMBLI) is now in full flow in 4 African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Uganda. 

As an example of the fantastic leadership shown by companies engaged through this initiative, Canal+ is broadcasting a public service announcement on malaria in Wolof (in Senegal) and in French (across francophone Africa). The value of this important in-kind donation is over 25,000 euros. Following their donation of 1000 mosquito nets in 2021 and with other activities in the pipeline, Canal+ is demonstrating the power of the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative. 

« Senegal is in the process of developing their National Malaria Elimination Strategy, and to reach the ambitious goal of elimination by 2030, we must mobilize new partners and resources. Zero malaria starts with all of us. »

Dr. Doudou Sene, the Senegal National Malaria Control Program Coordinator

In Benin, a photo exhibition and fundraising event is slated to take place on the 29th of April under the patronage of the First Lady of Benin, which will serve to mobilize resources from the private sector as well as contribute to advocacy efforts in the lead-up to the Global Fund Replenishment Conference later this year. 

In addition, Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative champions have been leading by example this World Malaria Day, such as through the “1 employee, 1 bed net” campaign launched by pharmatician Dr. Annabelle Akue and the donation of 1000 mosquito nets by Hon. Ake Natonde. 

In Burkina Faso, medical supplier Univers Bio Medical donated 100,000 rapid diagnostic tests, a donation valued at $70,000. 

« With an initial donation of $120,000 per country, and a deep commitment to bring our expertise and network of busines clients and partners to bear on this critical public health challenge, the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative will strengthen existing resource mobilization efforts at the national level and support the effective implementation of countries’ national strategic plans for malaria control and elimination. »

Elisa Desbordes, Head of Ecobank Foundation

World Malaria Day is also a key step on the “March to Kigali”, a campaign launched in April 2021 to foster an integrated approach to advocating for the elimination of both NTDs and malaria in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, on June 23rd of this year. It is led by a group of like-minded CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) representing a range of Francophone and Anglophone African nations and builds on the existing partnerships and platforms of the « No to NTDs » and « Zero Malaria Starts with Me » campaigns. 

This month, both Ghana and Guinea launched their national campaigns, with civil society organizations Jeunesse Secours of Guinea and AMMREN (African Media and Malaria Research Network) of Ghana working in collaboration with the national malaria and NTD programs. 

Thus far, around 200 organizations and individuals have signed the March to Kigali call-to-action, calling for increased prioritization and resources to tackle these preventable and treatable diseases. 

« The covid-19 pandemic’s disruptive nature means that, to a large extent, neglected tropical diseases and malaria have been overlooked in the public health space. This has led to an increase in case numbers, resulting in an increased cost and burden on the health system. We must find solutions to get back on track to meet the SDGs. »

Solomon Dopavogui, Executive Director, Jeunesse Secours, a CSO based in Guinea

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