World Malaria Day 2020 statement by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta

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Published: 25 April 2020

Statement by His Excellency H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta

As the world continues to implement measures to control the spread of the novel 2019 Coronavirus, we must not lose track of the collective war against diseases and medical conditions that are responsible for human suffering around the world. On this day, 25th of April 2020, we mark World Malaria Day and reflect on the progress we have made in the last two decades as we plan future actions and policies to bring an end to Malaria infections around the world.

Malaria has ravaged communities for decades and is considered a uniquely African challenge with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 93% of global malaria cases and deaths. In many African countries, malaria is the leading cause of visits to health facilities and for poorer households these bouts of illness and expenditure on medication and treatment remain a challenge to financial growth and stability.

In the year 2000, approximately 839,000 deaths were attributed to Malaria. In the two decades that have passed considerable political and financial will has been invested into the fight against the disease and we have managed to cut that number by more than 50%. In Kenya, the numbers of cases have been reduced from 6 million to 4.6 million in the last decade. This would not be possible without the cooperation and support of the government, development partners and frontline medical troops the doctors, nurses and medical officers.

We have been able to implement a number of programs to improve the health of our citizens including community health education and environment rehabilitation at the sub-national and community level. These measures coupled with increased access to treatment facilities have improved prevention and treatment capabilities and reduced significantly cases of malaria deaths. While we are very proud of the progress we are making we remain aware that there is still more to do to achieve our goal of zero malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa and ultimately in the world.

The novel 2019 Coronavirus has placed the global healthcare apparatus under immense and unforeseen strain, Africa is no exception. As we confront this new disease, we must seek to strike a balance between our response to the new threat and sustaining our efforts against existing threats such as malaria. Failing to do so creates a double jeopardy: an upsurge in malaria cases which could overwhelm our already taxed health care systems.

We must strengthen our health care systems at the sub-national and community level in order to give ourselves a fighting chance against ongoing health threats and emerging threats such as COVID-19. We should implement an integrated approach to controlling COVID-19 while maintaining malaria services as part of essential health packages. In Kenya, while the response to the novel coronavirus is scaling up, we are also expanding our malaria prevention efforts through the distribution of upwards of 15million bed nets this year to cover up to 25 million Kenyans.

As the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Chair, I will continue to drum up support from all African Heads of State and Governments to coordinate efforts in securing additional resources as we look towards self-reliance in the provision of essential health services including malaria envisioned in Universal Health Coverage. As we mark World Malaria day today, let us focus our efforts on the following:

  1. Protect the gains in malaria control through prevention, treatments, and emerging interventions such as the malaria vaccine which is under phased implementation in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  2. Boost African purchasing power and local manufacturing of critical medical supplies including regional partnerships and collaborations
  3. Increase youth engagement as our “Malaria Army” in deployment of interventions around community services, surveillance, health education and advocacy towards community ownership.
  4. Build on Technology Platforms and Data Capacity to combat COVID-19 and sustain the gains in the fight against malaria

This year’s theme is ‘Zero malaria starts with me”. Indeed it starts with me, you and all of us. We all have a part to play in maintaining our own health and that of our communities. The fight against malaria has been one that necessitated collaboration between governments and members of the medical fraternity. It has taken political, financial and social will power to get to where we are today. The fear, panic and uncertainty we are facing today in the fight against the novel 2019 Coronavirus was once felt by those who begun the fight against malaria and other diseases that mankind has today conquered through vaccination or medical treatment. If we continue to work together there is no challenge that we cannot overcome no matter how grim. As we acknowledge that zero malaria starts with me, let us also agree that zero Coronavirus infections start with me, you, all of us.

Thank you.