Time to step up the fight against malaria by empowering the hardest hit communities
21 November 2018 – More than 7 million people’s lives have been saved since the early 2000s thanks to a global partnership to end malaria. Huge progress has been made in the last decade. Forty-six malaria-affected countries are nearing elimination of this treatable but deadly disease, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new World Malaria Report (WMR) 2018.
Despite India’s 24% reduction in malaria cases between 2016 and 2017, progress has slowed and been uneven worldwide. For example, in the 10 highest burden countries in Africa, around 3.5 million more malaria cases were reported in 2017 compared to 2016. Every two minutes someone still dies from malaria mainly in Africa. They are mostly children.
It is unacceptable that the most vulnerable and underserved people are being left behind in the malaria fight. Too often, people in malaria-affected communities endure the devastating impacts of a mosquito bite firsthand: the loss of a child, family member, or friend alongside their own suffering from this preventable disease. More of these community voices must be heard and incorporated into national and global strategies to end malaria.
The new High Burden to High Impact: Targeted Malaria Response launched alongside the WMR signals the urgent action to be led by the 11 highest burden countries carrying 70% of the world’s malaria. The approach is catalyzed by WHO and the more than 500 partners of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria is a welcome sign to aggressively reducing cases again, but words must become actions.
Funding for the malaria fight has stagnated. Governments in high burden countries must fill part of this gap, and focus on ending malaria in the hardest hit communities. Donors and partners must also step up and recommit to ending malaria with consistent, long-term funding. Otherwise gains against malaria will be lost, and people will keep dying needlessly.
It is civil society’s duty to hold these governments, their partners and funders accountable. Civil society needs to take urgent action to support high burden countries to ensure the gains they have made against malaria do not slip away. Civil society must help these countries get back on track to achieving the world’s goal to end malaria.
It is also an individual’s responsibility in malaria endemic countries to get on board with the malaria elimination agenda. At the grassroots, then everyone needs to do their part to end malaria by sleeping under bed nets, removing mosquito breeding grounds like standing water, going to a health facility when they have a fever and encouraging loved ones to do the same.
The Global Civil Society Network for Malaria Elimination (CS4ME) formed this year to transform the fight against malaria by activating an expanding network of civil society partners to prioritize ending malaria for good. CS4ME commits to support the High Burden response.
To turn around the malaria fight and support high burden countries, CS4ME believes actions must be taken that start with supporting the communities grappling with the highest cases and deaths from malaria. From the local to the global level, the voices of communities and the civil society voices that represent them must be heard and amplified. Communities must stand together on equal footing with the decision makers leading the malaria fight.
The actions of governments, donors, partners, civil society and communities in the next few years will determine if we can end malaria for good or not. The voices of malaria-affected communities must guide our response.
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The Global Civil Society Network for Malaria Elimination (CS4ME) is a new network of civil society organisations (CSOs) seeking to expand members to jointly advocate for more effective, sustainable, people-centered, rights-based, equitable, and inclusive malaria programs. This alliance of empowered communities and CSOs plans to fill a critical gap in the malaria fight and help elevate malaria as a global, regional, and national priority until it is eradicated.
CS4ME was created during the Global Malaria Civil Society Strategizing and Advocacy Pre-Meeting, jointly convened by the Global Fund Advocates Network Asia-Pacific (GFAN AP) and APCASO held in 2018, prior to the First Malaria World Congress in Melbourne, Australia, with the support of the Malaria World Congress, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Burnet Institute. CS4ME secretariat hosted by Malaria No More Africa.