In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some African leaders have called for increased access to malaria prevention and treatment tools in order to save more people from dying from the disease.
The leaders made this request in a statement signed by Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
The statement on Monday was co-signed by Jakaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group, Graça Machel, Founder, The Graça Machel Trust and Foundation for Community Development.
In the statement, efforts made to increase access to malaria prevention and treatment tools have saved more than 7 million lives and continues to save nearly 600,000 lives every year compared to levels in the previous decade.
However, it said these lives are at great risk if anti-malaria campaigns are discontinued, or if routine testing and treatment services are disrupted.
“Immediate action is necessary to ensure campaigns not only continue, but are targeted to the populations at highest risk. This will help alleviate pressure on health resources that may be needed to treat COVID-19,” it said.
“Partners such as the WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria have recently issued new guidelines on how to safely continue providing life-saving preventive treatments, case management services and on developing social and behavior change programs in the face of COVID-19.
“We applaud countries that are currently using these guidelines to reach thousands of people at risk with life-saving insecticide-treated mosquito nets, seasonal malaria chemoprevention and indoor residual spraying campaigns,” it added.
The leaders, in the statement, urged manufacturers of essential malaria commodities to ensure the consistent availability of products and maintain production.
They also encouraged citizens to seek diagnosis and treatment for malaria at the first sign of symptoms.
The statement emphasised on the importance to sustain the nearly $3 billion USD in funding provided by countries who invested in the global malaria fight to ensure these efforts progress without disruption.
African Purchasing Power and Local Manufacturing of Critical Medical Supplies
The WHO estimates that as many as 940 billion pieces of medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) are needed to respond to COVID-19 in major countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent analysis suggests that less than one third of clinics and health posts in sub-Saharan African have access to PPE and other vital medical supplies they need to address COVID-19.
Ten African countries have no ventilators and most face dangerous scarcity.
“We are committed to fostering an environment where African countries can produce more of the lifesaving interventions and equipment needed to support response efforts in our nations,” it said.
The leaders said Africa needs to move urgently to pool its procurement capacity and increase its buying power on the international market.
Also, ensure that African countries aren’t competing with one another, but working in tandem to support mutual efforts.
Improving the workforce
To effectively fight malaria, the statement highlighted that many African nations have established a network of community health workers (CHWs).
CHWs are often the only access to care for malaria and routine health services and will continue to play a consequential role in saving lives during the response to COVID-19.
It urged governments and donors to prioritize these essential frontline health workers specifically through measures that both protect CHWs and also empower them to interrupt the virus, maintain existing services and shield those most at risk.
“Just like COVID-19, malaria does not respect borders and is a disease of poverty that presents as fever, shaking chills, headache and gastrointestinal issues,” it said.