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Funding, innovation critical in fighting malaria -African leaders

Significant progress is being made in scaling up malaria control efforts and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), an alliance of 43 African Heads of State and the African Union working to end malaria-related deaths on the continent, says Africa is better prepared to defeat malaria now than at any other time in history.

During the African Union Summit, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, chair of ALMA, said to achieve universal access to life-saving tools and continue the drive toward eliminating malaria deaths, we need an additional $3.2 billion in funding over the next three years.

Mosquito - malaria

Mosquito

“A share of these resources will come from Africa. We can’t ask the world to invest in Africa’s health if we won’t make the same investment ourselves, but we will need the world’s help,” said President Sirleaf.

A recent independent study commissioned by ALMA, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership found that every dollar invested in malaria control in Africa generates on average $40 in GDP on the continent. And scaling up to universal coverage of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria by the end of 2015 will prevent 640 million cases and avert 3 million malaria-related deaths. ALMA members stressed the need to strengthen their financial management with support from the African Development Bank and the World Bank to enhance accountability and transparency.

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Increasingly African countries are enhancing efficiencies in procuring life-saving interventions such as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), and long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs). For example, by standardising LLIN net specifications, African countries could save $630 million over five years.

Further evidence now included in the ALMA Scorecard for Accountability and Action is the monitoring of progress toward the Abuja target of 15 percent national public sector financing for health. The new data shows that in difficult global economic times, 14 African countries have responded by increasing their domestic contribution to health by more than two percent. This encouraging sign of enhanced domestic resources reflects a continued commitment to achieving global health targets.  However, more still needs to be done, as only Botswana, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia have achieved or exceeded the Abuja target.

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ALMA continues to promote the adoption of innovative financing initiatives in African countries, such as the UNITAID airline tax. Over the last 5 years, the airline tax has raised over USD $2 billion of which $1.2 billion has been invested in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Currently, six African countries are implementing the airline tax and 14 countries are in the pipeline.

Ultimately, continued progress in the malaria fight is not only a matter of financial resources, but it is also about technological innovation. ALMA recently launched an iPad application that increases engagement with Ministers, facilitates communication and enables a rapid response system to emerging crises in countries. To date, 44 African ministers of health have been trained on the ALMA iPad application.

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In addition to technology, Africa’s most popular sport is joining the malaria team through a new partnership announced between ALMA, United Against Malaria campaign (UAM) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF). CAF has made malaria a signature social cause of the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations and together the partnership is poised to reach hundreds of millions of African football fans with malaria prevention and awareness messaging.

“CAF recognises that in order for African football to compete on the global stage, we must have players and communities free of malaria,” said Issa Hayatou, President of CAF. “Through our partnership with ALMA and UAM, as an official social program of the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations, CAF is proud to add the voice of African football leadership to that of our Heads of State in the fight against this devastating disease.”

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