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WHO calls for urgent scale up innovation to fight against malaria

By Blessing Bature, Abuja

World Health Organization, WHO on Sunday called for urgent scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while also advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti disclosed that World Malaria Day is marked annually on 25 April to focus global attention on malaria, and it’s devastating impact on families, communities, and societal development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Moeti stated, “This year’s theme, “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives”, aligns with my call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.

According to him, the past year has seen significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria – RTS,S – were released by the World Health Organization late last year. This vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings.

WHO Regional Director for Africa said while this is a groundbreaking advance in the development of new tools to fight this disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited. As such, it is important to ensure that the doses that are available are utilized for maximum impact, while ensuring continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.

He said Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge.

In his words, “In the last year, about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region, along with 602 020 reported deaths. Six of our countries, the worst-impacted by malaria in the Region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55% of cases globally, and for 50% of these deaths.

“Despite some slowing of progress to reduce malaria cases and deaths, and the disruptions to health services caused by COVID-19, we are still much further ahead than we were in 2000. We need to reignite that momentum, and build on the recent advances”, he added.

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