African Leaders Celebrate Progress in Malaria Fight

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Recognizing unprecedented momentum towards elimination of malaria in Africa, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) will present awards tomorrow to 13 African countries that have shown commitment, innovation and progress in the malaria fight.

malariaThe 2016 ALMA Awards for Excellence will go to: Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Swaziland for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target for malaria.

Liberia, Rwanda and Senegal for Performance in Malaria Control between 2011 and 2015
Comoros, Guinea and Mali for being the Most Improved in Malaria Control, between 2011 and 2015.

Africa has achieved historic progress in the fight against malaria over the past 15 years. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates in Africa have fallen by 66 percent among all age groups and by 71 percent among children under 5. Annual malaria deaths in Africa have decreased from an estimated 764,000 in 2000 to 395,000 in 2015.

Approximately 663 million cases of malaria have been averted in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 14 years. According to the World Health Organization, reductions in malaria cases attributable to malaria control activities saved an estimated $900 million in case management costs from 2001 to 2014.

“For the first time in history, a malaria-free Africa is in sight,” said Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, the current chair of ALMA. “The success in these 13 countries and elsewhere across the continent demonstrates that strong leadership is our most powerful weapon against this ancient and deadly disease.”

Many African leaders have made fighting malaria a key focus over the past several years, assisted by commitments from donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States’ President’s Malaria Initiative, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and France’s multilateral and bilateral contributions.

Extensive use of effective and low-cost malaria control interventions, including long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, has led to the huge declines in incidence and death. Given that malaria-infected mosquitoes in Africa bite indoors and at night, these interventions have been highly effective. Since 2000, more than 1 billion insecticide-treated nets have been distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.

“ALMA is honored to work with these inspiring leaders,” said Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of ALMA. “They are saving lives and unlocking human potential as they rid their countries of this horrible scourge. With their renewed commitment and dedicated resources, I am confident Africa can eliminate this disease.”

But there is still much work to do. About 90 percent of all global malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa. Malaria still kills an African child every two minutes. In 2015, there were an estimated 188 million cases of malaria in Africa. Furthermore, millions of Africans are not receiving the lifesaving health care services and tools they need to prevent and treat malaria.

A recent Lancet study concluded that reductions in malaria transmission and burden could be accelerated over the next 15 years if the level of coverage of current interventions is increased. Still, innovation is needed, particularly in areas with intense transmission.

The dual threats of insecticide and drug resistance add to the urgency of the problem. In Africa, mosquito resistance to insecticides is increasing, and in Southeast Asia, resistance to artemisinin, the most common drug used to treat malaria, is a significant threat.

Typically, ALMA recognizes countries for their antimalarial efforts in a single year. This year, nations are receiving awards for their progress over a period of five years or for their work over the past 15 years to achieve the MDG target.

Two of this year’s awardees, Liberia and Guinea, were facing a severe Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015, making their successes in the area of malaria control all the more remarkable.

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