In recognition of the country’s successes in combatting malaria from 2011 to 2015, Liberia on Saturday, January 30, was presented with the 2016 Award for Excellence. Liberia became one of 13 countries recognized for their progress in the fight against malaria.
According to a dispatch from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, despite the country being faced with a severe Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015, it has been able to sustain its high coverage of malaria control interventions.
“In 2015, the country completed a Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Net (LLIN) universal coverage campaign, adapting its strategy to take into account the Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization predicted that Liberia would achieve a 50 to 75 percent decrease in malaria incidence between 2000 and 2015.”
The ALMA dispatch said Africa has achieved historic progress in the fight against malaria over the past 15 years. “Since 2000, malaria mortality rates in Africa have fallen by 66 percent among all age groups and by 71 percent among children under 5. Annual malaria deaths in Africa have decreased from an estimated 764,000 in 2000 to 395,000 in 2015. Approximately 663 million cases of malaria have been averted in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 14 years. According to the World Health Organization, reductions in malaria cases attributable to malaria control activities saved an estimated US$900 million in case management costs from 2001 to 2014.”
In receiving the 2016 ALMA Awards for Excellence, Liberia was joined by Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Swaziland.
All of these African nations achieved the Millennium Development Goals target for malaria.
Liberia, Rwanda and Senegal were mainly praised for Performance on Malaria Control, 2011-2015, while Mali, Guinea and Comoros received commendation for being the Most Improved in Malaria Control, 2011-2015.
“Liberian leaders should be commended for their impressive successes in the fight against malaria while also dealing with a devastating Ebola crisis,” said Joy Phumaphi, executive secretary of ALMA. “Rather than allowing their malaria efforts to fall by the wayside, they adapted their strategy in order to deal with both of these deadly scourges at the same time.”
Many African leaders have made fighting malaria a key focus over the past several years, assisted by commitments from donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States’ President’s Malaria Initiative, and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
Extensive use of effective and low-cost malaria control interventions, including long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, has led to the huge declines in incidence and death. Given that malaria-infected mosquitoes in Africa bite indoors and at night, these interventions have been highly effective. Since 2000, more than 1 billion insecticide-treated nets have been distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.
“For the first time in history, a malaria-free Africa is in sight,” said Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, the current chair of ALMA. “The success in these 13 countries and elsewhere across the continent demonstrates that strong leadership is our most powerful weapon against this ancient and deadly disease.”
Despite these gains, ALMA said there is still much work to do. About 90 percent of all global malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa. Malaria still kills an African child every two minutes. In 2015, there were an estimated 188 million cases of malaria in Africa. Furthermore, millions of Africans are not receiving the lifesaving health care services and tools they need to prevent and treat malaria.
ALMA was founded in 2009 as a coalition of 49 African heads of state working across country and regional borders to eliminate malaria by 2030. At last year’s ALMA forum, leaders adopted an elimination agenda for the continent. The African Union is set to adopt a roadmap for elimination by 2030 at its meeting in June 2016.
Typically, ALMA recognizes countries for their antimalarial efforts in a single year. This year, nations are receiving awards for their progress over a period of five years or for their work over the past 15 years to achieve the MDG target.