Africa not on track to eliminate malaria by 2030 as envisioned: Report

Disruptions in access to health facilities, supply chain during COVID-19 pandemic impacted management of malaria cases

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Tuesday 21 February 2023
Photo: iStock__

Most of the countries in Africa are not on track to achieving the goal of eliminating malaria in the continent by 2030, according to the African Union Malaria Progress Report 2022.

The goal set up in the African Health Strategy 2016-2030 policy framework is based on key commitments of the continent. They include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

The report was presented by President Umaro Sissoco Embaló of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa February 19, 2023.

It was prepared jointly by ALMA, the African Union Commission and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to End Malaria. It presented a status on malaria in the continent and highlighted the ongoing challenges in the fight against malaria in Africa. 

The incidences of malaria since 2000 have declined by over 37 per cent. But despite this, in 2021, the continent had the highest burden of malaria cases in the world.

The region with 54 countries accounted for 238 million cases or 96 per cent of all malaria cases in the world in 2021, according to the report.

This is a marginal increase from 2020. In 2020, the continent accounted for 95 per cent of the global malaria case burden, showed the most recent estimates by the United Nations.

In the two decades since 2000, deaths due to malaria decreased by 59 per cent, but the continent continued to share the highest death burden due to malaria — over 98 per cent (603,877).

The continent’s share of malaria deaths also increased from 96 per cent in 2020. Around 77 per cent of the deaths were among children under the age of five, according to the report.

This collectively impacts the social and economic development efforts in the region. The burden of malaria is an obstacle in achieving the objectives of Agenda 2063 for socio-economic transformation.

Underscoring the urgent need for strong political commitment and leadership, the report called for increased investments from member states to reach the goal of eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030.

“We must redouble our efforts to achieve the goal of eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030. Sustained political will, increased resources, and a shared sense of urgency are needed to make this goal a reality,” said Embaló.

Way forward

In 2021, the malaria mortality declined by 3.4 per cent primarily due to political commitments and strategic interventions as well as campaigns including the ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The pan-African WHO campaign launched in 2014 to empower communities to take ownership over the fight to end malaria has been launched in 27 countries now, the report showed.

The Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention and Indoor Residual Spraying Campaigns continued as planned and helped in reaching out to children, the authors noted.

However, disruptions in access to health facilities and supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted management of malaria cases, they highlighted.

Essential services for antenatal care were affected and resulted in lower coverage of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy, the report showed.

In November 2022, the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria approved $15.7 billion to boost the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria as well as strengthen health systems.

This has been the largest-ever investment, said the board at a meeting in November 2022. But, the fund created in 2002 is short of the $18 billion target, pointed out the authors of the report. 

“The existing and pledged resources are insufficient to fully support malaria programmes, especially as Member States confront drug and insecticide resistance, low malaria intervention coverage, global inflation, supply chain disruptions, and other economic shocks,” read the report. 

In fact, WHO launched a new strategy to combat antimalarial drug resistance in Africa November 17, 2022.

Increased domestic resources with strong partnerships are urgently required to maintain lifesaving malaria programmes and avert a resurgence in cases, suggested the African Heads of State and Government.

While the joint report warned of resurgence in cases, a new mosquito vector Anopheles stephensi is feared to reverse the gains made in eradicating malaria, alerted the Kenya Medical Research Inistitute February 20, 2023.

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