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New research finds that 9 in 10 Nigerian youth want to take personal action in the fight against malaria, with over half (58%) believing the disease can be eliminated in their lifetimes – despite the country having the world’s highest malaria burden.

A new survey released by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, in collaboration with Gallup International, explores attitudes to malaria among young people aged 18-34 in six countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

Credit: Gallup International

The data shows that youth in Nigeria are most likely to volunteer their time to support malaria control efforts, for example by distributing mosquito nets or supporting community clean-up activities (52%), even ahead of simply sharing information about malaria on social media (49%). A quarter also hope to make a difference by calling on national policymakers (28%) or engaging community leaders (23%) to prioritize malaria. Importantly, 90% of youth in Nigeria already take preventative measures to protect themselves and their families against the disease.

Credit: Gallup International

Despite their optimism, however, only a fifth (20%) of youth surveyed in Nigeria believe leaders are doing enough to end malaria. This sentiment was most pronounced in urban areas, where youth are significantly less likely to agree policymakers are doing enough (19%) than youth living in rural areas (35%).

Credit: Gallup International

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 threatens the malaria response, and the full impact is not yet known – particularly in highly affected countries like Nigeria, which accounts for a quarter of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide. In 2020, frontline health workers and governments including Nigeria, with support from partners, sustained more than 90% of mosquito net distribution and seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns in 30 countries, avoiding a worst-case scenario of a doubling of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone. Despite these efforts, however, the majority of youth in the country – 58% – feel national attention towards malaria has decreased during the pandemic.

Zero Malaria champion, Bello Abdulhakeem Bolaji, an electrical engineering graduate who co-founded a tech start-up in Nigeria, says:

A malaria-free world is absolutely achievable within a generation, but only with increased action and commitment from all levels of society – from small communities to global leaders. It’s encouraging to see that youth in both higher and lower burdened countries are so optimistic and passionate about ending malaria. I must now urge all young people across the continent to put this into action this World Malaria Day by calling on their leaders to draw the line against malaria.”

These findings informed ‘Draw the Line Against Malaria’ – a youth-focused, Africa-first global campaign launched by the RBM Partnership and its partners this year. Supported by African icons in sport and culture, the campaign urges youth across the continent to take their futures back from malaria – a disease which caused 409,000 deaths in 2019 and continues to prevent children from going to school and realizing their full potential. 

Health is a human right, not a privilege. No one should get sick and die from diseases that are preventable and treatable. All our efforts in the response and green recovery to COVID-19 need to ensure that other diseases, such as malaria, are not neglected. We must continue to invest in youth-led solutions to combat malaria around the world,” Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth commented.

World Malaria Day 2021 puts the spotlight on nations reaching zero malaria

The survey findings are released one month ahead of World Malaria Day 2021, the global awareness day celebrated on 25th April each year. This year’s theme – ‘Zero Malaria – Draw the Line Against Malaria’ – will celebrate progress achieved by a diverse set of countries that have achieved zero malaria since 2000, encourage a growing number of nations on the cusp of elimination, and re-ignite the movement to end malaria in countries still impacted by the disease.  

To mark World Malaria Day, on 21st April, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the RBM Partnership will jointly hold the Virtual Forum on Malaria Elimination. On this occasion, WHO will announce 27 countries and territories that have the potential to eliminate malaria by 2025, as well as review progress towards the achievement of the 2020 global elimination milestone of 10 countries recording three consecutive years of zero malaria cases since 2015. These include Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Algeria, as well as El Salvador, the first Central American country to be certified malaria-free earlier this year. 

In addition, countries around the world will observe World Malaria Day with their own events, with several countries launching nationwide Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaigns and others illuminating landmarks at 21:00 local time on 25th April in a global relay to celebrate progress towards zero malaria around the world and highlight the urgency of ending this disease everywhere. 

Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership adds: “This World Malaria Day we celebrate countries around the globe that have reached zero malaria since 2000, and a growing number of nations that are on the cusp of elimination. 

“Yet despite this incredible progress, World Malaria Day must also serve as a crucial reminder for people everywhere that we must accelerate with urgency to fight this preventable and treatable disease that still takes a child’s life every two minutes. Over this past year, COVID-19 has threatened our hard-won progress against malaria, so now more than ever we must make a commitment to end malaria once and for all.”

Ahead of World Malaria Day, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria urges people in Africa and worldwide to Draw the Line Against Malaria at and join the conversation on social media by using #DrawTheLine, #ZeroMalaria and #WorldMalariaDay.  

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