Experts meet to discuss priority issues to defeat malaria in Africa

Published: 2 November 2023 (Nairobi, Kenya)

On October 30-31, 2023, African malaria experts convened in Kenya to discuss priority issues to defeat malaria in Africa. The meeting was held to address the major challenges that threaten to sidetrack the decades of progress in the fight against malaria. The African Union set a target of eliminating malaria in Africa by 2030 but progress has stalled, and Africa is not on track to achieve this target. Significant gains will need to be made to get the continent back on track.

‘To deliver zero malaria we require continued investment, innovation, and implementation efforts. The progress made in the region gives hope that the global goal of eliminating malaria by 2030 can be achieved if we redouble our efforts in collaboration, science, research, innovation, technology development and investment’ said Mary Muriuki, the Principal Secretary for Public Health and Professional Standards at the Ministry of Health of Kenya.

African Union Member States are facing resource constraints linked to the ongoing global financial crisis, increasing biological threats, climate change, and humanitarian crises. These threats represent the most serious threat to efforts to eliminate malaria in the past 20 years and will lead to malaria upsurges and epidemics if not addressed.

‘Significant funding gaps, linked to the ongoing global financial crisis, climate change and resistance to vector control commodities and antimalaria medicines are making it difficult to keep malaria under control. We must ensure that the malaria fight is fully financed including through integrated approaches, with malaria as a pathfinder for health systems strengthening, pandemic preparedness, as well as climate change and health mitigation and adaptation’ said Ambassador Anthony Okara of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.

The experts noted that while AU Member States are off track to meet the malaria related targets, we can build on the lessons in providing essential malaria services across the continent at the height of the Covid-19 public health emergency.

‘We must work to expand our resources to address malaria, including through increased domestic resource allocations, working multisectorally and engaging the private sector, including through End Malaria and NTD councils and Funds,’ said Dr. Sheila Shawa of the African Union Commission.

Between 2024 and 2026, African Union Member States will face at least a US$1.5 billion budget gap to sustain existing levels of malaria interventions. Additionally, the higher cost of the highly impactful next-generation commodities necessary to address the biological threats (insecticide and antimalarial resistance, invasion of Anopheles stephensi and parasite evasion of rapid diagnostic tests) is adding further pressure on constrained budgets. History demonstrates that disruptions to malaria services consistently results in almost immediate upsurges with cases returning to pre-control levels.

As Chair of ALMA, His Excellency President Umaro Sissoco Embalo has called on African Heads of State and Government to establish national End Malaria Councils and Funds. These councils and funds convene senior leaders from across all sectors to support the implementation of national strategic plans. The leaders work collaboratively to advocate for malaria to remain high on the development agenda and mobilise financial and in-kind resources from their respective sectors. To date, existing End Malaria Councils have mobilised commitments worth more than $44 million and is proving to be an important, country-led tool for accelerating progress against malaria.

The meeting concluded with a call for action to accelerate the fight against malaria in Africa and achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating malaria by 2030. The Chairperson of ALMA will present the report to Heads of State and Government in February 2024 at the AU Assembly in Addis Ababa.