The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), has called on stakeholders in the fight against malaria to step up the game to save more lives.
This is because, “It is not acceptable that thousands of people, mainly children and pregnant women continue to die needlessly of malaria.”
A statement issued in Accra to mark this year’s World Malaria Day and signed by Mrs Charity Binka, Executive Secretary of the Network, said, the emergence of COVID-19 posed an additional challenge to the provision of essential health services worldwide and threatened to disrupt malaria prevention efforts, and asked the stakeholders to rise to the task.
AMMREN is a Pan-African media advocacy group of journalists and scientists working together to rid the world of malaria.
The statement, made available to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra on Sunday, said at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that malaria deaths could double in a worst-case scenario.
It said, however, many countries and partners responded quickly and effectively to protect the decades of progress made against malaria, ensuring that campaigns were delivered on time.
AMMREN in its statement applauded countries and partners for their resilience in the face of adversity as they observed the World Malaria Day today, April 25, stating that “Inspite of this achievement, there is no room for complacency.”
It said according to WHO’s latest World Malaria Report, progress against malaria continued to plateau, particularly in the high burden countries of Africa.
The statement said the WHO report indicated that a funding shortfall at both the international and domestic levels, posed a significant threat to future gains.
It said in 2019, total funding reached US $3 billion against a global target of $5.6 billion, leading to critical gaps in access to proven malaria control tools.
The statement said as a result of COVID-19, there was an increase in the number of people reluctant to seek medical care when experiencing a fever, thus threatening efforts to control malaria across the continent.
It said the WHO also warned that even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a considerable loss of life.
The statement said the 2020 World Malaria Report, for example, outlined that a 10 per cent disruption in access to effective anti-malarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19,000 additional deaths in the region.
It said disruptions of 25 per cent and 50 per cent in the region could result in an additional 46 000 and 100 000 deaths, respectively.
The statement said AMMREN believed that malaria could be defeated with concerted efforts by individuals and governments of countries where the disease was endemic.
It said the disease could be subdued with the current available tools for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The statement said AMMREN supported the statement of the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that, “It is time for leaders across Africa – and the world – to rise once again to the challenge of malaria, just as they did when they laid the foundation for the progress made since the beginning of this century.”
It said the WHO Director noted that, “Through joint action, and a commitment to leaving no one behind, we can achieve our shared vision of a world free of malaria.”
It said individuals have a responsibility to use the treated mosquito nets and other available tools.
The statement emphasized that unless countries find innovative ways to mobilize adequate resources to bridge the funding gap, malaria resurgence will likely take many more lives on the Continent.
It said certainly, this is not the time for countries with a high burden of malaria to lose ground.