Jeffrey O’Malley is director, HIV/AIDS Group, Bureau for Development Policy, at the United Nations Development Programme, which includes UNDP’s partnership with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
New York— The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day is “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” and the organizers carefully selected this theme to remind us that we must sustain progress against malaria to save lives.
In recent years, we have seen success in many regions: In Africa, malaria deaths have been reduced by nearly a third, and on other continents cases have been reduced by half.
UNDP is one of many contributors to these gains through its partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has helped to create unprecedented momentum and yield remarkable returns in many countries.
Particularly worth noting on World Malaria Day 2012 are the achievements of this partnership in Liberia and Tajikistan.
In Tajikistan, UNDP is implementing a Global Fund Malaria Elimination grant (2009-2014) with the aim of eradicating malaria infection. This work builds on a previous programme that contributed to preventing deaths caused by malaria, interrupting tropical transmission, and holding back and preventing malaria outbreaks.
The main beneficiaries of the programme, which covers 45 districts in the country, are pregnant women and children. Malaria cases have plummeted as a result, from more than 2,300 in 2005 to just 78 in 2011. Tajikistan is now in the pre-elimination phase for malaria. That’s a tremendous achievement.
Since the Tajikistan programme began, it has also upgraded 250 health facilities and trained 2,748 health workers—who have treated some 2,490 malaria patients.
In Liberia, years of civil war left the country paralyzed, with 95 percent of health facilities either partly or entirely destroyed. Malaria is endemic and the entire population of more than 3.5 million remains at risk.
But targeted interventions, with UNDP delivering support from the Global Fund, are helping.
The National Malaria Control Strategic Plan aims to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by malaria. The Global Fund has supported the government’s efforts since 2004, with more than $32 million in approved grants for malaria eradication.
2009 data from Liberia’s Health Facility Survey shows that malaria accounted for 33 percent of in-patient deaths and about 34.6 percent of outpatient department attendance.
That’s down from 44.3 percent and 37.5 percent respectively in 2005. Among other achievements, more than 3.9 million people have received anti-malarial treatment and more than 3,000 health workers have been trained in malaria prevention and treatment.
Despite these achievements, the challenges are tremendous and the gains are real but fragile. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly in sub-Saharan Arica, still suffer and die every year from this preventable disease, with untold losses that only worsen acute poverty and further set back development.
World Malaria Day reminds us of these challenges—and of the need for sustained engagement against malaria to save lives.