Honouring malaria heroes, Speak Up Africa sets the pace
Malaria still remains a major public health threat in many parts of Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality.
Each year, millions of dollars are pumped into malaria prevention, elimination and related activities in these Sub-Saharan countries.
Even though tremendous successes have been achieved so far, the region is still not out of the woods yet. Several thousands of people continue to die from malaria in the region annually.
Ghana, for instance, recorded a total of 3,745,398 confirmed malaria infections from January to September 2022 out of 7,749,627 tests conducted. This is according to a data from the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP).
The figure shows a decrease in malaria infection as compared to 4,133,020 malaria cases recorded in the same period in 2021. Ghana has also seen a reduction in malaria deaths from 196 in 2021 to 120 in 2022.
Even though the reduction in malaria infection and deaths in Ghana is significant and commendable, losing even a single life through malaria is highly unacceptable because malaria is entirely preventable.
Considering the dire impact of malaria on people and economies, the world has long promised to get rid of the disease for good. This explains why the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP) was established in 1955 as an ambitious attempt to achieve a malaria-free world.
Sadly, the GMEP programme was abandoned in 1969 because the goal was deemed unachievable. While the GMEP led to the elimination of malaria in many countries, it failed to achieve global eradication. However, in 2015, world leaders renewed their commitment towards the fight against malaria.
It for this reason that malaria remains one of the key focal areas of the global Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. It is hoped that the world will make significant efforts in addressing malaria by 2030, specifically, reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90 per cent; eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries; as well as preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.
However, for these ambitious goals to be achieved by 2030 as set out by the SDGs, particularly in the malaria endemic countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is the need for all stakeholders to put their hands on deck.
That is why a number of distinguished individuals and organisations around the world, and most especially in Africa, are currently working towards the cause to help eliminate malaria in the African region.
It is for this reason that such individuals, institutions and organisations working to help eradicate and eliminate malaria in Africa have been honoured by the Speak Up Africa. Speak Up Africa is an African-led organisation, based in Senegal, dedicated to building an Africa where growth and sustainable development are driven by Africa’s own citizens.
Key leaders and organisations who distinguished themselves in 2022 through their leadership in sustainable development on the continent were rewarded at the fourth Speak Up Africa Leadership Award ceremony held in Dakar, Senegal.
Launched in 2019, this annual award recognises and celebrates individuals and organisations who demonstrate remarkable leadership in public health, sanitation and gender equality and have had a positive impact on sustainable development in Africa.
Five individuals and one organisation were awarded for their commitment and achievements in the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and in advocating for universal access to sanitation and gender equality.
The awardees were Dr. Ndeye Mbacké Kane, Coordinator of Senegal's national neglected tropical diseases control Program; Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, President of the Senegalese Advisory Council of the Voix EssentiELLES initiative and Coordinator of the Francophone Network for Gender Equality; Aké Natondé, Member of the National Assembly of Benin; Khalilou Fadiga, former Senegalese international football player, FIFA and AFCON legend and Speak Up Africa’s champion, and CANAL+ Group, which has been working alongside Speak Up Africa since 2021 in the fight against malaria and the promotion of gender equality.
Speak Up Africa works with a multitude of partners from various sectors to effectively implement solutions to major public health, sanitation and gender issues in Africa.
The Board Chair of Speak Up Africa, Yacine Barro Bourgeault, believes that the award is a tribute to the change agents on the African Continent.
"Speak Up Africa has consistently been supported by exceptional allies who, through their commitment and achievements, are helping to make a positive impact on sustainable development on the continent,” she said.
In addition, she observed, “Together, we are giving a voice to the voiceless and mobilising resources to create sustainable change in Africa.
Today we celebrate these personalities and organisations who are committed in their different sectors to building the Africa we want by 2063."
For instance, Ecobank Ghana, in partnership with Speak Up Africa, National Malaria Elimination Programme and other partners launched the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative (ZMBLI) in Ghana to drive private sector contributions to the goal of malaria elimination, to create a network of private sector champions and to strengthen national coordination mechanisms.
By the launch of the ZMBLI, Ghana, thus, joins Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Benin, becoming the second Anglophone country to launch this exciting initiative.
According to the World Malaria Report 2022, there were 247 million cases and 619 000 deaths from malaria globally, over 95 per cent of were in Africa.
Celebrating individuals and institutions contributing to the malaria fight is in the right direction. The reason is that Africans have a greater stake in the fight against malaria. This is because Africa suffers most from malaria and that requires that African nationals and institutions must play a key role in malaria elimination efforts.
That is why the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye believes that collective responsibility is needed in the elimination of malaria in Ghana. For him, malaria elimination is feasible provided all stakeholders will play their roles as expected.
In a speech read on his behalf at a press conference to mark this year’s World Malaria Day in Accra on April 21, Dr. Kuma-Aboagye said Ghana will not relent on her efforts in eliminating malaria.
His comment follows the impressive strides that Ghana has made towards malaria prevalence and mortalities. Statistics from the GHS indicates that malaria prevalence and mortalities in Ghana have reduced significantly between the periods 2011 and 2022.
According to the GHS, prevalence reduced from 27.5 per cent in 2011 to 8.6 per cent in 2022 while death rates have also reduced by 95 per cent between 2012 and 2022 representing a decline from 2,799 deaths in 2012 to 151 in 2022.
Ghana’s National Malaria Control Programme is focused on reducing malaria mortality by 90 per cent, reduce malaria case incidence by 50 per cent, and achieve malaria per-elimination in at least six districts in the country by 2025.
The current elimination target is focused on reducing mortality by 100 per cent by 2028 and cases by 50 per cent using the 2022 figures as the baseline.
For her part, the Manager of the National Malaria Elimination Programme, Dr Keziah Malm, attributed Ghana’s success story to the various interventions that are being rolled out to fight the disease.
She particularly mentioned the promotion of the use and the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets that was targeted at children below five years in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions.
Similarly, she said, interventions such as the larvae source management, mass campaign, as well as case management in all districts in the country were greatly contributing to Ghana’s prevention and elimination efforts.
Dr. Malm said Ghana’s zero malaria targets were achievable considering the fact that the country had done a lot in that regard and therefore would enhance its efforts in that regard.
This article was produced with the support of Speak Up Africa's Media fellowship programme