World Malaria Day, Paris 25 April 2019
“Globally, the world has made incredible progress against malaria. But we are still too far from the end point we seek: a world free of malaria. Every year, the global tally of new malaria cases exceeds 200 million. And every 2 minutes, a child dies from this preventable and treatable disease.” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
After more than a decade of steady advances in fighting malaria, progress has leveled off. According to WHO’s latest World malaria report, no significant gains were made in reducing malaria cases in the period 2015 to 2017. The estimated number of malaria deaths in 2017, at 435 000, remained virtually unchanged over the previous year.
This year the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo hosted World Malaria at the Hôtel de Ville. Leaders came together to pledge their commitment to tackle malaria through the campaign Zero Malaria Starts with Me and generate support for the next financing conference for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria which will be hosted by President Emmanuel Macron in Lyon in October.
Sarah Beeching, Oshun’s Executive Director attended the Paris event with the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyeer. In Sierra Leone, malaria is endemic. The country has one of the highest burdens of the disease in the world. It is a leading cause of death and the cause of almost 40 per cent of hospital admissions. There are over 1.5 million cases annually in a population of just over 7 million.
Sarah met with Mayor Aki-Sawyerr in Sierra Leone at the end of 2018, when the Mayor had shared her vision for transforming Freetown through “Operation Clean Freetown”. Tackling waste management, clean water and sanitation will have health benefits for the people of Sierra Leone beyond malaria, however, given how high the prevalence of the disease, tackling malaria is a social and economic priority.
An important commitment on World Malaria Day came from Francophone Mayors, who delivered a declaration to tackle malaria in urban centres. In responding, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said:
‘We need a movement of communities, businesses, governments at all levels, including city and municipal authorities, to finally end this exhausting disease that saps our people and our continent of life…. I am deeply inspired by my colleagues, the Francophone Mayors who have made a declaration today to support the campaign. City mayors are in a perfect position to bring new momentum to achieving Zero Malaria. … So I am delighted that we have launched Zero Malaria Starts With Me in Sierra Leone last week – spreading the word through churches, mosques and the media. Over the coming months no one will be able to escape the message – and believe me I will be doing my part!’
Oshun Partnership will continue to work on urban malaria over the coming year in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali in June 2020.
Sarah Beeching said:
‘Malaria is a huge drain on productivity, keeping people away from work and draining African economies. It keeps children out of school, preventing them from learning and reducing their life chances significantly. We now have over 50% of the world’s population living in cities and this is set to grow to over 70% by 2050. We need a concerted effort to tackle health in cities, elected mayors will be critical in this fight.’