Malaria remains the Single most dangerous health emergency for Arica. According to Malaria Report 2021, Africa recorded 96 per cent of the 232 million cases of Malaria globally and 98 per cent of the 6 lakh deaths due to the disease. The alarming development is that these numbers are far more than the stats recorded in 2019.
The rise in the number of cases of Malaria casualties is due to advanced methodology, better infrastructure and also neglect in Malaria elimination programmes due to the COVID pandemic. Due to this, it is now clear that Africa is not on track to achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating Malaria by 2030. In 2015-20, the disease prevalence has decreased merely by 1 per cent while the deaths have risen by the same.
One of the crumbling challenges faced by many malaria-prone African countries is the serious shortage of funds for many public health activities targeting the epidemic. However, timely measures such asindoor spraying and other malaria fighting measures getting included in the COVID prevention measures are estimated to have prevented a large-scale rise in Malaria deaths (9 per cent during last year).
African Union can still strive to eliminate the disease by 2030. Statistical estimates are no match for human ingenuity. To achieve this challenging tasks, African Union needs to re-focus its health approach for collaboration and cooperation with both African members and foreign stakeholders such as the United Nations, Pharmaceutical companies, Aid agencies, and NGOs.
There should be a greater emphasis on the malaria elimination programmes such as digitization of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Scorecard hub that is responsible for tracking and accounting of various health verticals in Africa. Integration of a community approach is extremely important to progress in any social indicator. AU needs to direct members to empower community representatives at a digital level so that ground-level problems are highlighted properly.
The 2018 AU initiative “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign has already introduced community engagement and empowering plans and it needs to be expedited. In addition, the AU has called for the rapid constitution of the End Malaria Councils across all nations in the continent. These high-level delegations in each nation review the progress of malaria elimination quarterly. African Union is correctly engaging youth in the process and the ALMA head called for youth armies to initiate a movement against malaria for which it has already established an ALMA Youth Advisory Council. Across the border engagement is critical for avoiding setbacks due to the spread of the disease easily.
The battle against malaria is not only critical to Africa, it is important to stop the spread of the disease to other parts of the globe as the disease knows no boundaries. With rising temperatures, vast areas of the temperate world are recording suitable environments for becoming new breeding grounds for the protozoa. Private investment in health schemes and support of international bodies and the pharma sector will be critical for fast-tracking the success of the public health initiatives.
There can be major setbacks globally if the Malaria causing Protozoa develops resistance against the currently available treatments. That will lead to the epidemic turning into a pandemic. However, the good news is that the first Malaria vaccine called Mosquirix was launched in 2021 and it has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) too. Although it is successful in prevention of the disease from one of the four known varieties of Malaria, hope is humanity’s best medicine. The AU can still achieve the 2030 target for elimination of Malaria if it uses this hope to reinforce the battle against humanity’s largest killer.