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world malaria day

The UN, the World Bank—and Twitter—help raise the game on malaria

Kavita Watsa's picture

Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, was here today to thank President Zoellick for $200 million to fund bed nets that will help prevent malaria in Africa. Chambers, who wants to bring a swift end to what he calls “the genocide of apathy,” conveyed a sense of great urgency as he described the UN’s sweeping campaign with 50 celebrities on Twitter—from Ashton Kutcher to Bill Gates. Through them, and through millions of tweets and re-tweets, money is being raised to ensure that all vulnerable people have bed nets by the end of the year. Yes, that’s this year.

As African governments look for ways to help the poorest people in the wake of the food, fuel, and financial crises, I think this was a very good moment for President Zoellick and Africa Vice President Oby Ezekwesili to note that anti-malaria efforts are relatively straightforward, with high returns on investment. The Bank’s effort to help close the gap—by funding 25 million of the 50 million remaining nets needed—is a timely one. It will cover seven countries—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zambia—among the 31 hardest hit by malaria.

“This was a highlight of my trip to Washington this spring,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s Finance Minister, “It is a key step to restore dignity to so many African men, women, and children.” Kenyatta called for a concerted effort by African governments to make sure that funds are used as intended and to scale up their own malaria funding. Finance Minister Mapon of the DRC spoke of great successes against malaria in his country, but noted that the “need remains sizeable.” And Zambia’s Minister Musokotwane echoed this conclusion, calling malaria “an obstacle to development.”

Why crossing the Congo was so special

Eva Jarawan's picture

Eva Jarawan in the DRC

Even during the busy Spring Meetings here in Washington, my thoughts keep going back to two places I visited this month that lie on either side of the Congo River. I crossed the great river by boat from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, a special journey for many reasons. In Brazzaville, capital of the tiny Republic of Congo, I’d been impressed by the quality of leadership in managing additional financing for one of our projects which addresses HIV/AIDS, and on the other side of the river, I was returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo after a long gap, to find that a health systems rehabilitation project I’d worked on many years ago was in fact thriving and delivering good results.

Today being World Malaria Day, I must register that I saw some extremely useful work going on in Kikimi, a very poor neighborhood near Kinshasa. Our partnership with local NGOs to provide better health services across DRC looks like it’s working well here. Instead of just being shown reports on inputs and equipment, which I’ve found frustrating in the past, this time I met a large number of women who told me about insecticide-treated bed nets they’d received during routine visits to their health center and how useful these nets were to prevent malaria. I saw pharmacy shelves well-stocked with malaria drugs, oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea, and basic antibiotics. The project wasn’t perfect but it was delivering results that I could see with my own eyes.

Better drug supply chains keep thousands more children alive

Monique Vledder's picture

On April 21, a few days before World Malaria Day, we announced some very encouraging results from a pilot project in Zambia through which we were testing various improvements in the public sector supply chain for lifesaving drugs. What we had been trying to do, with support from DfID and USAID, was to remove bottlenecks and get key supplies like pediatric malaria drugs off the shelves in district storage facilities and out to patients in rural areas on time.

When private sector techniques--like hiring someone to plan drug orders based on actual consumption in rural public health centers--were used to strengthen the public sector supply chain, we saw that the availability of pediatric malaria drugs nearly doubled in rural health centers in the 16 pilot districts.

This is a very significant finding, as just 7 percent of children in rural Zambia receive first-line treatment for malaria within 24 hours of developing fever (Zambia National Malaria Indicator Survey, 2008). We estimate that if these techniques are scaled up nationwide, 27,000 children could be saved from malaria deaths between now and 2015—cutting child mortality from malaria by 37 percent in Zambia.