By Franca Ofili

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says governments must mobilise more resources and technical capacities to help strengthen preventive measures and improve coverage of malaria case management services.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this in Abuja on Tuesday during a news conference on World Malaria Day with theme, “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement.”

Moeti, represented by Dr Walter Mulombo, WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, said that malaria had been a stubborn public health enemy.

She called on African leaders to keep malaria high on their agendas as they allocated resources to health.

She said that in 2021 the disease killed 619, 000 people, of whom approximately 96 per cent lived in Africa.

According to her, it is six – 20 times more likely to spread in mosquito-prone environments than the Omicron variant of sars-cov-2.

Moeti said that the disease was once endemic across most of the world, sweeping through the Americas in the 1600s.

She said that the organisation was doing a lot to assist countries eliminate the disease.

According to her, in terms of reduction in malaria incidence, eight countries are on track to meet the 2025 Global Technical Strategy target.

She said the countries are: Cabo Verde, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“15 countries achieved insufficient reduction while 20 have witnessed stagnation or increase in cases.

“Ten countries saw increases in malaria deaths. The pace of progress must be accelerated if we want to achieve the set targets for 2025 and 2030.

“We can now save millions of lives each year from sickness and death caused by malaria following novel progress toward the disease’s elimination.

“The first malaria vaccine recommended by WHO to prevent malaria in children (also known as RTS,S) is saving lives in some countries.

“In those counties, almost 1.5 million children have received the vaccine through a WHO-coordinated pilot programme, there is a substantial decrease in hospitalisations for severe malaria and a drop in child deaths,’’ Moeti said.

She said that the organiation was concerned that malaria deaths remained unacceptably high, and cases have continued to increase since 2015.

Moeti said that the WHO African Region alone accounted, in 2021, for an estimated 234 million malaria cases and 593 000 deaths.

She said with such number, it had the heaviest burden of over 95 per cent of cases and 96 per cent of deaths globally.

“Our region, therefore, continues to be hardest hit by this deadly disease partly because too many people do not have access to preventive and curative interventions

“Nearly 30 per cent of the population in most African countries cannot access essential health services, and most people face unacceptably high expenditures on health care.

“Significant inequities affect the most vulnerable, young children and women, whereas about 80 per cent of malaria cases and deaths occur in children under five,’’ Moeti said.

According to her, to reverse these trends and accelerate progress, we must rethink and revitalise our strategies by investing, innovating and implementing smartly.

“Fighting against malaria vectors will require multisectoral actions and the involvement of decentralised administrative units and communities to sustain behavioural change and uptake of these tools.

“The new global framework to respond to malaria in urban areas, developed jointly by WHO and UN-Habitat which will guide city leaders and stakeholders.

“Meanwhile, a robust research and development pipeline is set to bring a new generation of malaria control tools that can help accelerate progress towards global targets,’’ Moeti said.

According to her, the day gives organisation an opportunity to renew political commitments and bolster investments in malaria prevention and control.

She, therefore, called on member states to redouble  commitment to implement an ambitious and innovative acceleration plan to rapidly reduce the burden of malaria and save the lives of its populations.(NAN)

By Editor

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