Need to sustain gains in the fight against malaria – AMMREN

The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), a network of journalists and scientists on Tuesday called on the global malaria community in the fight against malaria to take stock of promises made to end malaria deaths.
“Reduction of malaria deaths by a third over the last decade in Africa shows that investing in malaria does bring results.”
It urged African Governments to respond to the situation and commit more funds to help maintain the gains made against malaria and other tropical diseases.
This was contained in a statement signed by Mrs Charity Binka, Executive Secreatary of AMMREN in Accra.
It said malaria should continue to be a priority for decision-makers and donors and supported the call of Roll Back Malaria Partnership on World Malaria Day on Wednesday, April 25.
The theme for this year’s celebration “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” is appropriate, as it marks a period of necessary action to maintain the gains and scale up efforts towards achieving near- zero malaria deaths by 2015, the statement said.
It said “Whether or not the malaria map will keep shrinking, as it has been in the past decade, or be reclaimed by the malaria parasites, depends to a great extent, on the resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years.”
Many countries have missed the 2005 and 2010 targets and it is unlikely that the 2015 targets would be met unless conscious efforts are made to achieve Universal Coverage of essential malaria interventions.
It called on powerful stakeholders like the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) to treat fake drug manufacturers and their agents with the same ruthlessness employed against dealers in narcotic drugs.
The statement said “We can reduce our losses by tackling the negative factors holding us back in our quest to eliminate the killer disease responsible for an estimated 600,000 deaths a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa,” adding that, the age-old disease which could be prevented and treated yet continued to claim many lives in Africa.
It expressed concern about the inability of stakeholders such as drug enforcement agencies, customs officers, the police and drug manufacturing giants to join forces to check this counterfeit problem, which could lead to loss of confidence in orthodox medicine and compelled people in poor countries to resort to herbal and unconventional solutions whether or not they had been certified to be efficacious.
The statement said the continued existence of taxes and tariffs on commodities for malaria control exposed the half-hearted approach to tackle malaria by the countries susceptible to the disease.
Taxes and tariffs made these life-saving products unaffordable to the poor and vulnerable, explaining that the fact that even the artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is being faked is worrying indeed.
It said to sustain the gains in the war against malaria, all stakeholders including the media must remain vigilant to crowd out the use of mono-therapies and educate people on the correct usage of treated bed nets and other interventions.
Africa has witnessed a lot of progress towards controlling malaria through the massive deployment of bed nets among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children and the development of effective medicine, subsidies on the cost of the drugs, and most important of all the ongoing study to develop an effective vaccine against malaria.
The statement said research had revealed that the Global Fund subsidized drugs were being sold in cities of countries where the subsidy programme had not been rolled out, which meant that someone stole them from countries like Kenya and Ghana, where the subsidy programme had already been rolled out.
The cities where stolen drugs were found included Addis Ababa, Cotonou, Lomé, Luanda, Lusaka and Maputo.
“It is possible a malaria vaccine could be available for targeted use as early as 2015, this is a good sign, as the appearance of a malaria vaccine on the scene would go a long way in sustaining the fight against malaria.”
However, while the world waits for the first malaria vaccine, there was the need to support ongoing interventions such as the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm), this is a laudable idea to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria-artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) at an affordable price of $1.50.
The statement said malaria drugs, subsidised under AMFm were the new targets of concern and added that, there were reports that some greedy individuals were looking at the AMFm differently.
African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), was formed in November 2006, it is a network of African journalists and scientists working together to reduce the burden of malaria, which is endemic in most parts of Africa and the number one killer of children under five.
Nineteen print and electronic media journalists from nine African countries formed the network at a media-training workshop on Reporting on Malaria Research in Africa held in Accra-Ghana in 2006, with sponsorship from INDEPTH Network’s Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA).
AMMREN believes that malaria can be ‘pushed’ out of Africa with concerted efforts by all, adding “As we celebrate another World Malaria Day, AMMREN salutes all those working tirelessly to eliminate malaria from Africa. Let us keep the fire burning”.
AMMREN now has membership of over 200 journalists and scientists in 10 African countries.
The current participating African countries are Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and The Gambia.
Membership is open to all health journalists and scientists working in Malaria. GNA

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