In the past 15 years, Sub-Saharan Africa has made historic progress in turning the tide against malaria. Global progress on malaria control has been unequivocal – the World Health Organization estimates that more than 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted worldwide.
Since 2009, Liberia has reduced all-cause mortality among children under five by 18 percent as a direct result of collective investment and action by the government, communities, donors, and partners.
As we commemorate World Malaria Day on April 25th, we celebrate this success. As the world’s leading donor in global health, the United States is strongly committed to working with our partners to intensify efforts to free people from the intolerable burden of malaria.
We must also recommit our efforts. More than 430,000 people still die each year from this preventable and treatable disease. Ninety percent of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and the vast majority occurs in children under five. A child dies every two minutes. And malaria sickens hundreds of millions more, often over and over again. More than half of all school-aged absences in Africa are due to malaria. And the disease costs the continent billions each year in health costs and lost productivity.
The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) continues to be a key partner in the fight against the disease. PMI supports 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Liberia, and countries in the Greater Mekong sub-region.
PMI uses a mix of tools: long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor insecticide spraying campaigns, artemisinin-based combination therapies, prevention treatment of malaria in pregnancy, and community education campaigns. Both preventing malaria and correctly diagnosing and treating the illness are essential.
In Liberia, PMI works in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the national malaria control program, and countless partners likeGlobal Fund and the UN Agencies to reach and then maintain universal coverage with long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets for all individuals living in malaria endemic areas. Treated mosquito nets are a highly effective means of preventing infection and reducing malaria transmission.
And we focus on delivering equitable care by targeting areas with the greatest burden of disease, particularly families who have lower incomes and whose access to health care is most limited. PMI is also helping train professional medical personnel and community health workers to care for people with malaria, and is helping governments take charge of malaria efforts in their own countries.
In just the past year, PMI protected more than16 million people by spraying homes with insecticides. We procured more than 42 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, 57 million antimalarial treatments, and more than 54 million rapid diagnostic tests. PMI is also helping train lay and professional medical personnel to care for people with malaria, and is helping governments take charge of malaria campaigns in their own countries. For example, this past year alone, PMI supported training for 77,000 health workers in malaria case management.
It all adds up. But we still have much work to do. We must do more to better protect expecting mothers and their newborns from malaria. During pregnancy, malaria can cause serious, life-threatening risks for a woman and her baby. Common problems include maternal anemia, miscarriage, prematurity, stillbirth, and low birthweight in newborns.
Safe and effective treatment to prevent malaria in pregnancy is available during antenatal care, and sleeping under a long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net is vital. Increasing access to health services — especially for the poor – is a sound and sustainable investment that can command great economic returns. Programs to train community health workers to provide treatment for malaria and other childhood illnesses have been successfully scaled up in a number of countries, improving access to care for those least able to seek out those services at health facilities.
The health and future of ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ Liberians is at stake. Reducing and possibly eliminating malaria burden will be critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and will help advance development efforts in Liberia by reducing school absenteeism, fighting poverty, increasing gender parity and improving maternal and child health.
Leading economists have identified the fight against malaria as one of the “best buys” in globaldevelopment, estimating that a 50-percent reduction in global malaria incidence could produce $36 in economic benefits for every $1 invested. A new analysis also indicates that malaria eradication could deliver more than $2 trillion in economic benefits and save an estimated 11 million lives.
Success during the next three to five years in Liberia, and across other endemic countries, is crucial to putting the world on a trajectory toward the long term vision to “End Malaria for Good.” Riding the world of this scourge will have long-term and transformative impacts across the globe, saving millions of lives and generating trillions of additional economic output.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues and counterparts in Liberia, who work tirelessly in communities every day from Monday to Saturday. You are making possible our dream of ending malaria. But we can’t do this alone. And donor resources are not sufficient to reach our targets. We need innovative approaches to financing and increased engagement with the private sector. I call on all partners, businesses and communities to join our efforts to end malaria in Liberia, and worldwide, once and for all.
Beating diseases like malaria is the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do.
By Sheila Paskman, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy – Monrovia