There is need for African governments and partners to inject fresh impetus in efforts to eradicate malaria in the continent despite competing priorities occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, experts said on the World Malaria Day which falls on Saturday.
Joy Phumaphi, the executive secretary, African Leaders Malaria Alliance, said that channeling equal attention to malaria and COVID-19 disease, is key to preventing a public health crisis in Africa and save lives.
“The fight against malaria is now more critical than ever. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the routine prevention, early detection and treatment of malaria is seriously threatened,” Phumaphi told Xinhua in an interview.
She said that African governments should ensure that anti-malaria programs are funded adequately despite the overwhelming urgency to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phumaphi cited a World Health Organization (WHO) study which indicates that slackening on the malaria fight could lead to a spike in mortalities while exerting burden on fragile health care systems in Africa.
“The double burden of malaria morbidity and mortality,as well as COVID- 19 morbidity and mortality on countries would be insurmountable,” said Phumaphi.
The only way to avoid this double tragedy for the continent, is to make sure that the vector control interventions that will prevent the spread of malaria are carried out without interruptions,” she added.
Sub-Saharan African region accounts for some 90 percent of global malaria burden while governments have invested in targeted interventions like distribution of insecticide-treated nets, vaccines and life-saving drugs to hasten progress toward eliminating the vector-borne disease.
Phumaphi said that enhanced surveillance, diagnosis, case management, research and capacity development is key to winning the war against malaria in Africa.
She said that robust public-private partnerships are required to revitalize the anti-malaria war in Africa even as the continent grapples with emerging public health challenges.
Abdourahmane Diallo, chief executive officer, RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said that African countries should roll out robust anti-malaria mitigation measures with speed to prevent a public health crisis that could be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a precious window in which to act before the arrival of peak malaria season in many parts of Africa and the further spread of COVID-19 across the continent,” said Diallo.
Countries must continue, safely, the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor spraying campaigns, and other preventive measures for pregnant women and children, focusing on reaching those at highest risk,” he added.
Yacine Djibo, founder and executive director, Speak Up Africa, said that malaria-endemic countries should ensure that life-saving interventions are resilient enough to withstand disruptions occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
“Country leaders must act now, as those that fail to sustain malaria control efforts ahead of the rainy season risk reversing decades’ worth of investment and progress against this disease,” said Djibo.