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Uhuru highlights AU progress in defeating malaria amidst COVID-19

By George Kebaso
Sunday, February 14th, 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In summary

A planned distribution of insecticide treated bed nets campaign went on uninterrupted despite the year long Covid-19 pandemic rage in Kenya and other African countries, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

He said the response to malaria amidst the COVID-19 public health emergency achieved over 90 percent net distribution.

Kenyatta, the chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) attributed strong in-country leadership in averting a predicted upsurge in malaria fatalities during the pandemic period.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation- WHO predicted a doubling of malaria deaths if severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines were experienced.

“But, while we are now in the second wave of the pandemic, I am delighted to say that through the strongest in-country leadership, this predicted doubling in malaria deaths was averted,” said the President when announcing the progress that has been made in responding to malaria during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The third Zero Malaria Starts With Me annual Africa Malaria Progress Report highlights the achievements, challenges, and future directions in Africa’s battle to defeat malaria.

Since its launch in 2018 by African Presidents, the report indicates that More children than ever were reached with preventive anti-malarial medicines in areas of highly seasonal transmission whilst following COVID-19 protocols.

At the same time, 19 countries have launched the initiative.

He said beating malaria remains a major public health challenge in Africa.

“However, during the COVID-19 pandemic African governments mounted effective responses that ensured access to malaria services which averted many thousands of deaths on the continent,” he added noting that the pandemic highlights the importance of investing in and strengthening health systems and the need to work together to find solutions.

The response to COVID-19, he said had set a challenge, to apply the same vigour, in the fight against malaria, for Africa to accelerate the elimination of malaria by 2030.

On her part, Amira El Fadil, the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission noted that there is a significant progress being made in tackling the challenges under the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030.

She said there is need for African countries to continue pushing for new funding initiatives with a focus on strengthening domestic financing.

“While these are bold and ambitious targets, we should continue the big push for new funding initiatives with a focus on domestic financing such as; End Malaria Funds and End Malaria Councils, increased roles for the private sector, invest in new innovations and tools and above all maintain the political commitment, shared responsibility and global solidarity,” she added.

During the meeting, President Kenyatta launched the ALMA Youth Army Strategy that puts young people at the centre of the malaria fight in line with continental commitments. This includes the African Youth Charter and the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.

“The instruments give priority to youth development and empowerment,” the President added

The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria also unveiled the Draw the line Against Malaria campaign, which seeks to tap into African creative talent and deploys novel digital ways of engaging youth in the fight to end malaria.

“Countries held the line against malaria in 2020—this year we must draw the line for good. The Draw the Line Against Malaria campaign will create a unifying, ground-breaking and inspiring global platform to capture youth and public imagination, rally communities and leaders behind the crucial fight to rid our continent of this deadly yet preventable disease,” said Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, RBM Partnership to End Malaria Chief Executive Officer.

To enhance data-driven decision making and drive action, Kenyatta also launched the ALMA Scorecard Hub, a new digital platform for scorecard management and accountability tools. 

The launch of the ALMA Scorecard Hub, the President said is a critical step in African countries’ efforts to drive accountability and actions to achieve the bold targets set to eliminate malaria by 2030, end Neglected Tropical Diseases and improve maternal and child health on the continent.

“The platform will allow countries to share their scorecards and best practices about the use of the tool. It will also offer a digital training platform with online courses and a repository of information, toolkits and global best practices on scorecard and accountability tools,” he said.

It is used in over 40 countries in Africa, and its management tools help in track progress of key health indicators.

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