By Princess-Ekwi Ajide -Abuja
World Health Organization, WHO, Regional Office in Africa, has promised to remain fully committed to the fight against malaria through close collaboration with governments, partners and communities.
In a message to mark World Malaria Day 2022, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, noted there has been significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, in the past year despite the COVID-19 pandemic especially the landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria – RTS,S which were released by the World Health Organization late last year.
According to her, the vaccine which will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings is a groundbreaking advance in the development of new tools to fight the disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, but supplies are currently limited hence, it is important to ensure that the doses available are utilized for maximum impact, while ensuring continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.
She said Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge as about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases last year, occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region, with 602 020 reported deaths. Six African countries, the worst-impacted by malaria in the Region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55% of cases globally, and for 50% of these deaths.
Dr. Moeti, opined that despite some slowing of progress to reduce malaria cases and deaths, and the disruptions to health services caused by COVID-19, the region is still much further ahead than it was in 2000 and there is need to reignite that momentum, and build on the recent advances.
She cited some achievements to include the seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns which were implemented as planned in 2021, thereby ensuring protection for an additional 11.8 million children, indoor residual spraying distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets as well as the scaled implementation of RTS,S vaccine pilots in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which reached about 900,000 children.
The WHO Regional Director, said the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people being affected and dying from malaria and as such, requires a focus on research and on leveraging available evidence to ensure that targeted interventions are an efficient use of resources, which produce measurable results.
“We also need to work on drug and insecticide resistance, as well as focus on new strains of malaria arising in the Region, which are more difficult to detect, and treat” She said.
She emphasised that Malaria is, a lot more than medical and technological interventions as it affects households and communities, and the communities need to be empowered to play an active role in the fight against the disease. As WHO in Africa, we recognize that a whole-of-society approach requires us to listen to, and learn from, those who are worst impacted.
World Malaria Day is marked annually on 25 April to encourage the global attention on malaria, its devastating impact on families, communities, and societal development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This year’s theme Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives, the Regional the Regional Director said, aligns with her call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.
She reminded that the World Malaria Day is an occasion to renew political commitment and encourage continued investment in malaria prevention and control and called on countries and communities affected by malaria to work closely with development partners to advance their countries along the road to elimination, while contributing to the achievement of other Sustainable De