Working to ensure no child dies from a mosquito bite is a lofty, but attainable goal. I’m reminded of this daily in my home country of Cameroon, where malaria is among the top causes of death and the main disease treated in our hospitals. It’s a goal that would not be possible here, or in other African countries, without the support of the Global Fund.
Created in 2002 to aggressively fight the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics, the Global Fund raises and invests nearly $4 billion a year in lifesaving programs implemented by a host of partners in communities throughout the world. Last week, leaders gathered in Montréal, Canada, for the Global Fund Fifth Replenishment Conference, pledging nearly $13 billion. Global leadership and generosity will prove invaluable to maintaining the progress against malaria we’ve made in Cameroon.
With the support of the Global Fund, millions of bed nets have been distributed free of charge to Cameroonians. Malaria diagnostic tests and treatments are now readily available in hospitals and health centers throughout the country. These and other Global Fund-supported investments have helped cut the mortality rate from malaria in half since 2008.
Support and collaboration from the Global Fund, the Cameroonian government, and private-sector partners like ExxonMobil/COTCO and MTN have also made it possible for my small Malaria No More team to implement mass communications and advocacy campaigns. Using mobile phones, billboards, community radio stations and celebrity public service announcements, we help teach Cameroonians the benefits of sleeping under a bed net.
Bed nets are one of the best and most cost-effective tools for preventing this terrible disease. An estimated 16 million Cameroonians have received bed nets, and our campaigns remind them to sleep under them nightly.
In the far north Cameroon city of Maroua, which is not far from our borders with Nigeria and Chad, I met a family of seven living in extreme poverty. Mariama, who is 40 years old, told me that since she received free mosquito nets distributed through a national government campaign, her family is not only sleeping peacefully, she no longer has to spend money on malaria treatment. Most importantly, her six children are alive and healthy.
In this part of the country, especially during the rainy seasons, malaria is still the No. 1 cause of death. It preys on children under 5 and pregnant women. This family and their neighbors shared with me how afraid they were of “dying from malaria, the silent killer.”
They are extremely grateful for all the partners who are working tirelessly to ensure that mothers are able to protect their children from malaria. They offered some tea to thank me for our work. I told them that there are many organizations, including the Cameroon National Malaria Control Programme and other organizations far from Cameroon, that contribute funding and provide technical and other support. They all deserve a thank you. I promised I’d share their message broadly.
The Global Fund has been essential to averting 6.4 million malaria deaths during the past 15 years. However, our job is not done yet. A child still dies every two minutes from malaria.
On behalf of the Mariama, her family and millions of others in Cameroon and across the world, today is an opportunity to thank the Global Fund for helping bring us closer to achieving our goal of ensuring that no child dies from a mosquito bite. It’s also an opportunity to thank my government and other African governments that are increasing their domestic financing to fight malaria.