The World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has charged African leaders to invest more in the health sector of their respective countries in order to adequately combat malaria, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on the continent annually, and other diseases.
Dr. Moeti said increased malaria funding is needed in order to save lives and further expand access to its prevention, diagnosis and treatment services in the Region. “This is even more critical given the urgent need to tackle malaria drug-resistance and other emerging threats, such as mosquito resistance to insecticides,” she said.
Her comments were contained in a statement read on her behalf by WHO Country representative to Liberia, Dr. Alex Gasasira, at the occasion of the observance of World Malaria Day on Saturday in Monrovia. The day was commemorated under the theme, “Invest in the future. Defeat malaria”. The theme highlights the need for increased financial and human resources, commodities and infrastructural investments to control and eliminate this life-threatening disease.
Dr. Moeti, a Botswana native, noted that limited access to and underutilization of available malaria interventions within countries are the major causes of excessively high burdens of malaria cases and deaths.
“For instance in 2013, 33% of households in the Region still did not own even a single LLIN and only 29% of households had enough LLINs for all household members,” she said, calling on leaders and partners across the continent to do more.
As we commemorate World Malaria Day, she said, “I call upon countries and stakeholders to focus on targeting available resources at places where the burden of malaria is highest and at the people and groups who face the highest risk of malaria.”
She indicated that most malaria prone countries, one of which is Liberia, are still far from achieving universal coverage of these malaria interventions.
“I would also like to urge countries and stakeholders to invest in national and community systems in order to test every suspected case of malaria before administering treatment. All confirmed malaria cases should also be documented and reported in order to determine the geographic areas where malaria is most prevalent and the population groups that are at the greatest risk.”
She indicated that there is a global consensus to reduce malaria mortality and incidence rates by at least 90% by 2030 and eliminate malaria. Though the proportion of people protected by at least one malaria control method has increased in recent years, total funding will only match needs if international donors and partners and national governments prioritize further investments in malaria control, the WHO boss said.
Dr. Moeti noted that her office will continue to provide evidence-based guidance to all countries and stakeholders to better target malaria interventions, strengthen national health systems towards universal health coverage, and accelerate progress towards a malaria-free Africa.
Meanwhile, according to health experts, malaria can be prevented or controlled through the use of long LLINs, indoor residual spraying (IRS), preventive therapies for pregnant women, children under five and infants, as well as quality-assured diagnostic testing and treatment.
According to WHO statistics, in 2013, an estimated 163 million cases of malaria occurred in the African Region, of which approximately 528 000 resulted to deaths. Between 2000 and 2013, the estimated number of malaria cases in the at risk population declined by 34% while malaria death rates declined by 54% in the African Region. In spite of this progress, countries in the Region are not likely to attain the World Health Assembly target of a 75% reduction in malaria cases and deaths by 2015.
The Botswana native (Dr. Moeti) was appointed by the WHO’s Executive Board early this replaced Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo who completed his second 5-year term early this year. The latter received huge criticisms for his handling of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak from the initial, who lead to the slow or belated response from the global health, body (WHO) after thousands of people had died.