On behalf of our Chair and leaders across this continent, I would like to congratulate the Republic of Uganda on the launch of the Malaria Free Uganda initiative. Uganda has made significant progress in the fight against malaria. Over the past decade, malaria prevalence has fallen from 42% to 9%. Achieving such progress has required strong political will, leadership by the Ministry of Health, and active support from many partners. I want to congratulate the Honourable Minister, Dr. Aceng, the director of the National Malaria Control Division, Dr. Opigo, and the countless others for their contributions.
Despite this progress, however, malaria remains a significant threat to health and economic development across Africa and in Uganda. In 2018, there were 5.8 million confirmed cases of malaria in Uganda. Thousands died—the majority of which are pregnant women and children under the age of five years old. We must protect our most vulnerable.
Malaria is also the leading cause of worker absenteeism in Uganda. Because of malaria, 22 million days of work are missed each year. This is the equivalent of removing 90 thousand workers from the workforce each year. It’s no wonder then that past studies have estimated that malaria reduces GDP growth by up to 1.3% each year.
As we confront the challenges of COVID-19, the importance of ending malaria has become particularly important. A new case of malaria is confirmed in Uganda on average every 3.5 seconds. If our front-line health workers are overburdened fighting a preventable disease like malaria, how are they supposed to take on new diseases like COVID-19? If our workers are sick, how are our economies supposed to recover? A malaria-free Uganda is a healthy Uganda. A malaria-free Uganda is a resilient Uganda. A malaria-free Uganda is a prosperous Uganda.
In 2018, H.E. President Museveni announced the “Mass Action Against Malaria” campaign and called on all Ugandans to take responsibility for achieving a malaria-free Uganda. Today, we are witnessing an important step in achieving this vision. The Malaria Free Uganda initiative provides an important platform to mobilise and coordinate advocacy, action, resources, and accountability across government, the private sector, and civil society. By working together and tapping into the unique skills and capabilities of each sector, I am confident that we can achieve objectives of Uganda’s malaria strategic plan and a malaria-free Uganda by 2030.
Thank you and congratulations to the Honourable Minister, the National Malaria Control Division, the Rotarian Malaria Partners, the WHO and the US President’s Malaria Initiative, ALMA, and the many individuals who have contributed to this effort and shown that we all have the capacity to be African leaders in the fight against malaria. Your efforts are an inspiration for other leaders across the continent and around the globe.
As the Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, I know that each of us has the capacity to be an African leader. You can be an African leader by sleeping under a mosquito net each night. You can be an African leader by going to the health facility if you or our family members have a fever, nausea, or other symptoms of malaria. You can be an African leader by helping to mobilise advocacy, action, and resources to this new initiative.
With 42 million potential African leaders in Uganda alone, I know a malaria-free Uganda is achievable.