Today is World Malaria Day, but for sub-Saharan Africa, there’s not much to celebrate. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffers by far the greatest malaria burden worldwide; malaria is so common that the average African sees it as an inevitable part of their existence. And the statistics are as stark as they come.
According to the 2018 World Malaria Report, the global response to malaria has stalled and we’re at risk of losing some of the gains made in the last two decades. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is worried about our ability to achieve two critical 2020 milestones of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016- 2030; reducing case incidence and death rates by at least 40% from the 2015 levels. He clearly states: “we are off course”.
The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 435 000 in 2017, and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 93% (404,550) of the global malaria deaths. Of all burdened countries, Nigeria has the highest percentage, bearing 19 percent (82,650) of malaria deaths worldwide. Children under five years old are the most vulnerable, accounting for 61 percent (266 000) of the global malaria deaths. This is sad and unacceptable.
Malaria is also bad for business. Malaria is responsible for decreased productivity, employee absenteeism, and increased health care spending. It’s not only businesses that lose, families and governments lose too.
Despite a levelling off in progress since 2015, the global malaria response is in a much better place than it was at the start of the 21st century. Although Africa accounted for 93 percent of the global malaria deaths in 2017, we should also note that malaria interventions and investments resulted in 172,000 fewer malaria deaths globally, and 88% of these fewer cases in Africa.
There are numerous challenges that we must confront on the road to elimination of malaria, including inadequate international and domestic funding, continued and/or increasing parasitic resistance to antimalarial drugs and mosquito resistance to insecticides.
Since 2006, GBCHealth’s Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) has served as a platform, to channel the collective force of the private sector in driving partnerships that are having an impact on malaria control and elimination in Africa. Overall its goal is to build country-level capacity for effective malaria control and eventual elimination, helping companies to establish and refine workplace policies and conditions, as well as its programmatic outreach into the communities, in collaboration with the local, regional and national government
The assets of the private sector are a valuable resource in the fight against malaria. CAMA’s work focuses on advocacy for better efforts against malaria, sharing best practices through case studies, briefings, leadership forums, etc. and creating partnerships towards malaria control and elimination in Africa.
CAMA members are front-runners in the fight against malaria and represent a variety of industries such as oil and gas, banking, construction, beverage, etc. Collectively, CAMA and its members are developing and scaling-up workplace and community initiatives, have identified needs and gaps in-country, and are mobilizing business contributions to address them as well as working with the National Malaria Control Programs and other key stakeholders. They have also helped to create evidence-based tools to enable companies to better manage and monitor workplace and community malaria programs.
Their activities and commitments span the full spectrum of public health interventions: product development to address prevention and resistance, implementation of mosquito control measures (e.g. Interior and exterior spraying, stagnant water control), access to information and treatment for employees and communities, collaboration on policy frameworks and making investments.
WHO calls for the adoption of a “high burden high impact” model towards the elimination of malaria, which emphasizes increased political will, funding (particularly domestic funding) and better targeting of available resources.
Building on the theme of this year’s World Malaria Day – “Zero Malaria Starts with Me”, CAMA members and leadership are calling on all stakeholders in the global health community to redouble efforts, resources, and commitment to saving millions of more lives, and help communities and economies to thrive by ending malaria.
A forward thrust in malaria control and elimination is possible through evolved strategies, new tools, increased funding, investment in a robust health system that delivers quality healthcare and sustainable partnerships across private and public sector organizations. Let us do this together!
Ochuko Keyamo-Onyige is the Nigerian Country Manager of GBCHealth CAMA (The Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa).