World Malaria Day: UNDP welcomes renewed push to fight deadly disease
Tremendous progress to eliminate malaria has been made over the past decade, including a global reduction in malaria deaths of more than 25 percent, yet per year the disease still infects 219 million people and causes 660,000 deaths. In addition to its direct impact on the health of millions worldwide, malaria also has an indirect impact on economies and development in general.
On World Malaria Day (25 April), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has added its voice to the call for accelerated efforts to eliminate the deadly disease. UNDP is a founding member of Roll Back Malaria, a public-private partnership which has grown over 15 years to encompass more than 500 organizations focused on promoting high-level political commitment to keep malaria at the top of the global agenda, and monitoring progress towards universal goals. UNDP, Roll Back Malaria and other UN partners are collaborating to investigate and address the social determinants of malaria, such as housing, income inequality, gender and education. This multi-sectoral approach with governments and civil society is helping countries increase the effectiveness of their malaria programmes. Malaria control interventions not only save lives but accelerate progress in other health and development goals, including reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, and improving maternal and child health. The estimated funding required for malaria control globally is just over US$5 billion per year, but available domestic and international funds amount to less than half this need.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s Executive Director, Dr. Nafo-Traoré, highlighted the World Malaria Day Theme ‘Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria’ and called for support to fill the global malaria funding gap and make extraordinary efforts to meet the 2015 targets for rolling back malaria, with a focus on Africa. According to the World Malaria Report 2012, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa – the vast majority in children under five. A regional initiative that aims to eliminate malaria in the Zambezi valley was launched today by Zambia and Zimbabwe, with support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UN family, including UNDP. The Trans-Zambezi Malaria Initiative brings together five countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – which converge at the narrow Caprivi Strip, where a population of 1.5 million people are at high risk of malaria. Several rivers cut through the region, including the Zambezi, and seasonal flooding can result in a prolonged malaria season and contribute to the epidemic. The UN system in Zambia, including WHO, UNICEF and UNDP are actively involved in the fight against malaria, which UNDP does through Global Fund grants it manages for an interim period on behalf of the Ministry of Health. UNDP Resident Representative in Zambia, Kanni Wignaraja, said that malaria remains a significant killer of children, youth and the elderly in Zambia. “Three Zambian children die each hour of malaria and these are preventable deaths. Greater community awareness, as well as diagnosing and treating malaria at the community level would ensure prompt medical intervention before complications set in,” Ms Wignaraja said. However, Zambia is among those countries which have achieved significant progress in reducing malaria prevalence in children aged under five, from 16.1 percent in 2010 to 14.3 percent in 2012, according to the preliminary results of the country’s National Malaria Indicator Survey 2012. In Zambia, over 4.7 million cases of malaria were treated at health facilities and 6.1 million Rapid Diagnostic Test kits were distributed to health facilities in 2012 alone.
In Zimbabwe, the Global Fund is supporting the government through a US$35 million grant, and UNDP channels these funds to the Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Control Programme. The UNDP-Global Fund Partnership currently spans 23 countries and has enabled millions of people around the world to benefit from programmes to prevent and treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, while strengthening national systems to enhance the response to the diseases.