Kenya's Olympics icons step up global efforts to wipe out malaria

malaria war, malaria funding, malaria vaccine, end malaria, wipe out malaria

The malaria vaccine

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • The movement is part of the ‘Zero Malaria StartsWith Me’ campaign inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 31, 2020.
  • The second chapter of the drive ahead of the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases set to take place on June 23 is aimed at coaxing world powers to commit to obliterate malaria by investing a total of Sh2.1 trillion during the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference, which will take place in New York, US next month. 

Kenyan athletics champions have joined concerted global efforts to wipe out malaria through a spirited crusade bringing together youths, celebrities, scientists and world champions.

Gold-medalist and marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge and 2016 Rio Olympic and 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon are the latest to join the second phase of the movement dubbed ‘Draw the Line Against Malaria’.

The movement is part of the ‘Zero Malaria StartsWith Me’ campaign (ZMSWM) inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 31, 2020.

The second chapter of the drive ahead of the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases set to take place on June 23 is aimed at coaxing world powers to commit to obliterate malaria by investing a total of Sh2.1 trillion during the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference, which will take place in New York, US next month. 

Endorsed by RBM Partnership to End Malaria – a global platform for coordinated action against malaria - the campaign is aimed at persuading governments to scale up the fight against the deadly malady at a time when malaria fatalities have hit a record high in about a decade.

The youth-focused global movement brings together a host of internationally acclaimed personalities such as English former soccer player and malaria champion David Beckham, FC Barcelona striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Nigerian Afropop singer, songwriter and actress Yemi Alade as well as South African television presenter Bonang Matheba.

It comes at a time when the world is still smarting from devastating Covid-19 aftermaths, leading to increased global alert on health security and pandemic preparedness.

“In the past, suffering from malaria has stopped me from running. Today, over 1,000 children in Africa will die from the disease. Malaria is stealing their future. But this is a human problem that we can solve because despite the challenges no human is limited,” said Kipchoge, who is also the Zero Malaria Ambassador and member of the United Kingdom’s MNM Leadership Council.

“We are calling on leaders to recommit to ending malaria at the Kigali Summit and later this year at the Global Fund Replenishment conference by contributing at least Sh2.1 trilion to achieve zero malaria within a generation,” he urged.

“I’m proud to join this incredible campaign because I want to see an end to malaria, a disease of deep injustice particularly as it affects the world’s poorest people, especially women and girls,” said Faith, a Zero Malaria ambassador.

“...We see great tools now becoming available like celebrating the world’s first malaria vaccine trialled in Kenya. This gives me great hope,” she remarked.

Speaking during the Seventh Replenishment Preparatory Meeting a fortnight ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance’s (ALMA) Chairperson,  urged relevant stakeholders to amplify their commitments against malaria.

“I call upon all governments and indeed all stakeholders including the private sector to join us in enhancing the pledges made during the 7th replenishment cycle that we anticipate later this year. I believe none of us will regret investing in this worthy venture because a healthy population means higher productivity,” said the Head of State.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern over the dawdling progress in annihilating malaria, calling for collaborative efforts from youths, new generation of scientists and champions to combat the malady.

“WHO welcomes a new host of scientists, youth and champions to join the malaria fight at a crucial time when progress against the disease is lagging. ‘Draw The Line’ provides a platform for Africa’s most powerful narrators to change this trajectory, disrupt political apathy, and lead the fight to end this treatable and preventable disease that kills a child nearly every minute,” stated Dr Tedros.

A fully replenished Global Fund, accounting for more than half of global funding to end malaria, is projected to enable countries and partners to reduce malaria deaths by 62 per cent.

It is estimated to treat 550 million malaria cases, eliminate malaria from six more countries by 2026, unlock the potential of a Zero Malaria world, help to fortify equitable health systems as well as improve the livelihoods of millions of people.

In Kenya, concerted efforts from the government, development partners and communities have seen the country make enormous strides in the fight against the preventable disease.

This has shrunk the malaria map, consequently reducing fatalities by two per cent and saving millions of lives.

The Ministry of Health through the Division of the National Malaria Programme in collaboration with diverse actors launched the Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition (ZMCC) in April.

The motive of the campaign was to coordinate and elevate advocacy efforts as well as communication initiatives in order to increase political will and investment towards a malaria-free Kenya. 

Additionally, ZMCC seeks to support the ZMSWM movement, foster multi-sectoral partnerships to enhance the work of the malaria community, increase awareness of the negative impacts of malaria within society and also accelerate the zero-malaria target countrywide.


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