To cap off our World Malaria Day celebrations last week, the UN Foundation co-organized a World Malaria Day 2022 Commemoration in Washington D.C. co-hosted by the African Union Mission to the U.S., the Kenyan Embassy in Washington D.C. and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. The commemoration was a celebration of African leadership in the fight against malaria and underscored the critical importance of partnership and shared commitment to this fight and to ensure a healthier and safer world for all.
European and African Ambassadors, U.S. global health leadership, community and civil society champions, and development partners came together to celebrate African successes against this ancient and deadly disease, as well as to reaffirm their commitment to supporting the upcoming 7th Replenishment of a critical funder of malaria programs around the world – the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
“Today we both mark progress and roll up our sleeves,” said Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “We know a malaria-free world is achievable with dedicated effort, and we look forward to working together so that every minute marks, not the loss, but the life of child with a full opportunity to thrive.”
His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, opened the event with virtual remarks that emphasized the great successes of African countries in keeping malaria at bay in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but underscored the significant challenges that the continent needs to overcome to achieve the goal of eliminating malaria by 2030 – including a 63% gap in resources needed to fund African malaria programs.
“The first step in this noble journey is to address the significant malaria financing gap in African countries,” President Kenyatta said. “I call upon all implementer countries to remain at the forefront of championing and advocating for a successful 7th Replenishment of the Global Fund. Your Excellencies, Zero Malaria starts with you, it starts with me, it starts with all of us.”
The Ambassadors from Kenya and the African Union (AU) echoed President Kenyatta’s congratulations to African countries on their leadership in the fight against malaria. AU Ambassador to the U.S. Hilda Suka-Mafudze called on African and donor countries to renew their commitments to the Global Fund as we work to protect progress in the face of the unprecedented challenges and resource constraints created by the pandemic. “In the previous replenishment, a record number of African countries made commitments to fund AIDS, TB, and malaria,” said Ambassador Suka-Mafudze. “I call on our AU member states to renew their commitments as we continue to advocate to the global community.”
Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S. Lazarus O. Amayo also voiced his country’s desire to continue this partnership through the Global Fund and called for continued African leadership in the fight, saying, “Demand is still there for continued support. But we, as Africans, are also taking responsibility to increase our budgets and malaria allocations in our ministries of health – what we have at the moment is funds to facilitate programs, but eventually we have to own the process by also modernizing and upgrading our health systems.”
Donor representatives responded to the African Ambassadors’ calls to action by reaffirming their own commitment to ending malaria.
Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, elevated the U.S.’s intended pledge and called on fellow donor states to make similarly strong pledges to help the Global Fund meet its 7th Replenishment target. “President Biden’s request for $2 billion is a signal we wanted to send to our partners around the world,” said Pace. “It is my turn to issue a call to G7 donors, to the European Commission – those who need to help us reach this goal of at least $18 billion – and to do so by providing at least a 30% increase to their 6th Replenishment pledges. I am committed on behalf of the U.S. government to help us all get there.”
French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne highlighted France’s role at the forefront of the fight against malaria, including as the last Replenishment host and as the second largest historic donor to the Global Fund. “France will reaffirm its commitment to the fight against malaria with financial support to Unitaid, the Global Fund, and Gavi, and with the implementation of projects and research supported by the French Development Agency and the French International Research Institute for Sustainable Development,” said Ambassador Etienne. He further emphasized French support for strengthening health systems, a key component of the Global Fund’s new strategy.
Deputy British Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Tatham’s remarks celebrated two decades of incredible progress against malaria, while cautioning that much work remains to be done to reach global targets towards malaria elimination. “Continued support to the Global Fund will be critical to help end malaria, strengthen health systems, and end pandemics, ultimately resulting in a healthier and more equitable world,” he said. “By working together, investing in global organizations like the Global Fund and Unitaid, and collaborating on scientific breakthroughs, we will be able to move closer to the fundamental goal of consigning malaria to the history books. Let us keep up the fight and work together towards that noble goal.”
This emphasis on investment in innovation and scientific collaboration was also at the heart of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s virtual remarks. The WHO Director-General celebrated the milestone represented by the approval of the first malaria vaccine and its potential to save children’s lives. He further outlined a path towards ending malaria through increased malaria R&D investment, expanded access to innovations, improved disease surveillance, strong health systems, implementing country government leadership, and meaningful community engagement.
In a moving all-woman panel discussion moderated by CS4ME Executive Director Olivia Ngou, civil society and U.S. global health leaders shared inspiring examples of programs and interventions that put communities at the heart of their approach, and by doing so are creating stronger, more sustainable, and more equitable health systems. The panellists stressed the essential role of the Global Fund and bilateral programs like the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in ending malaria by 2030, advancing health equity, building resilient health systems that are critical for preventing future pandemics and saving 20 million lives between 2024-2026.
Katy Kydd Wright, Director at the Global Fund Advocates Network, spoke to the meaningful and direct engagement between the Global Fund, implementing countries and civil society partners, calling it a “high-performing partnership.” She described the respectful learning relationship between these communities that enables tough discussions that improve programs and move progress forward.
Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy Dr. Angeli Achrekar emphasized Wright’s points, saying, “The Global Fund is one of the most powerful partnerships that exists, full stop. It works.”
Dr. Achrekar and Acting U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator Julie Wallace explained how bilateral investments like PMI works hand in hand with other global initiatives like the Global Fund to reinforce and support community health systems. Wallace further described how malaria community health workers are critical not only to a successful malaria fight, but also to an effective pandemic response.
“The healthcare workers who have been trained and equipped to diagnose fevers for malaria have been the same healthcare workers that have been successful in detecting and helping people with COVID,” Wallace said. “The community mobilizers were the ones who were carrying the information about COVID and telling communities how to protect themselves.”
Youth and Civil Society leaders made a vibrant call for ambitious and concrete pledges for the 7th Global Fund Replenishment. Youth champion and GFAN advocate Loyce Maturu echoed the need for advocacy from communities and those affected by the three diseases to achieve a more equitable world. “As a young woman living with HIV, I should not be worried of getting malaria from a mosquito bite, HIV positive pregnant women should be worried of getting malaria,” she said. “This needs to end, and advocates are part of that.”
Nurse, midwife, advocate, and Executive Director of Hope for Future Generations Cecilia Senoo gave a moving intervention showing how mothers are empowered through Global Fund programs to protect their families and avoid the needless pain of losing children – as her mother did when two of Senoo’s siblings were lost to malaria.
After the panel, Senoo was joined by CS4ME champion Zeinabou Idé in sharing their personal stories of the impact of the Global Fund and malaria on their lives, and to share a declaration from Civil Society Organizations and malaria-affected communities calling for health equity and the prioritization of local civil society in the implementation of malaria interventions.
Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and former Minister of Health of Botswana, closed the event, saying that African voices rose up this week to demand that everything possible is done to increase equity and reinforce health systems through investment in critical funders of malaria programs, including the Global Fund and PMI.
“Those voices have resonated all the way to Washington DC, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Ottawa, and many more cities,” she said. “Listening to our communities, our mothers, our children, we can create a world free from malaria. Zero malaria starts with you and me!”