Zambia End Malaria Council recommits to keep malaria-funding high on the political agenda during the COVID-19 fight
Lusaka, 25 April 2020- Today, we commemorate the World Malaria Day and reflect on the progress, challenges and future directions in our fight against malaria. Despite the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic to our health systems, ending malaria by the end of 2021 is a priority. Malaria affects more than 5 million Zambians each year. Malaria continues to kill pregnant women, men and children affecting Zambia’s huge potential for socio-economic transformation. Defeating the disease is a precursor for achieving Zambia’s Vision 2030. Zambia faces a USD 100 million-budget gap required to fully implement the national malaria elimination strategic plan.
‘I call on all ministries, parastatals, companies, community organisations, traditional leaders, and religious leaders to support the End Malaria Council and to join local councils being established in each province’, said Hon. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, Minister of Health and Chair of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
The progress in Zambia is reflected in significantly fewer deaths and cases and in some regions, such as Lusaka and Southern provinces, malaria has almost been eliminated.
Religious and traditional leaders can turn the tide against malaria
With more than 5 million confirmed malaria cases each year with a new confirmed case every 6 seconds on average, Zambia has a huge potential to backtrack and reverse on the progress that has been made with huge implications for the health delivery services. It is critical that malaria remains a priority on the political agenda and that sustained efforts to support programmes in rural and poor communities, pregnant women, and young children who are affected the most are sustained.
‘Our faith teaches us that even the smallest things can be powerful and are worthy of our attention. In the Quran, Allah is “not ashamed to set forth any parable, even that of a mosquito” (Holy Quran 2:25), hence the fight against malaria should equally be taken seriously by everyone,’ said Sheikh Dr Shaban Phiri of the Islamic Supreme Council of Zambia a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
“Faith demands that we care for ourselves and our communities (James 2:26). Fulfilling our spiritual duty is easy: (1) sleep under a mosquito net every night, (2) go to a community health worker or clinic if you or your family member has a fever, and (3) make sure that your neighbours are aware of the risks of malaria and take precautions too’ said Rt. Rev. David Njovu of the Anglican Church a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
We have the tools necessary to defeat malaria. This year, the National Malaria Elimination Centre and Ministry of Health will distribute safe, insecticide-treated mosquito nets to households nationwide’, said His Royal Highness Chief Mumena, a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
In the coming months, the National Malaria Elimination Programme will distribute safe, insecticide-treated mosquito nets to households in the country. It will also conduct indoor spraying of houses in certain areas to reduce the risk further.
Engaging with the public and private sectors to end malaria
In 2018, there were 5.4 million confirmed cases of malaria, which means that up to 13.5 million days of work were lost—or the equivalent of 50 thousand productive workers. Zambia Sugar Company Plc has seen positive benefits from eliminating malaria on its plantations, as have other companies that have proactively sought to stop malaria among their workers and communities. By defeating malaria, the capacity of medical professionals is further capacitated and hospital beds become free.
‘Over the past several weeks, we have witnessed unprecedented economic and social disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look ahead to the potentially long and challenging recovery, a healthy workforce is necessary for a healthy economy. This begins with ending malaria. We believe there is a high return on investment in ending malaria’ said–Dr Chabuka J Kawesha President, Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Fund.
‘Malaria is an operational and economic burden for the mining industry in Zambia. Each year, malaria contributes to worker absenteeism and decreased worker productivity. This is why we are investing time and resources to support the fight against malaria, especially in provinces with significant mining activity such as the Copperbelt and North-Western Provinces’ said General Kingsley Chinkuli of First Quantum Minerals Limited a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
‘Malaria burdens Zambia’s economic and social development. Previous studies have shown that malaria reduces GDP growth by up to 1.3% and that the country loses the equivalent productivity of 50 thousand workers each year because of the parasite. If we want to grow the economy, we must end malaria’ said Peter Cottan, Chairperson of the End Malaria Fund.
‘In the midst of our efforts towards malaria elimination, COVID-19 has grasped our attention as a new, dangerous, and still poorly understood threat—one which we might still be able to keep under control if we act dramatically’ said Constance Njovu, Regional Coordinator of the Isdell Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
“No country, sector, stakeholder or group working alone can defeat malaria. Malaria is not the Ministry of Health problem but it is for all of us – Government, business and general public to fight this scourge. If you suspect that you have malaria, it is important that you go for immediate testing at your nearest health facility”, said Kingsley Chanda Commissioner General of the Zambia Revenue Authority a Member of the Zambia End Malaria Council.
Partnering with local leaders and companies to establish local End Malaria Councils is key for community action. For more information visit http://endmalaria.org.zm