Despite all the recent success against malaria, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens prior gains; it is testing the resilience of health systems and challenging malaria programs due to its effect on health workers, the shifted focus of the global and local community, the effects of public health measures such stay-at-home directives, the lack of availability of health services, heightened impact on vulnerable communities, and many other reasons.
The Federal Ministry of Health, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership in Nigeria and the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) hosted a webinar for World Malaria Day which featured discussion on the importance of maintaining malaria interventions in the face of COVID-19. Panelists shared insights on the fight against malaria and COVID-19 in Nigeria, and how various sectors can cooperate to mobilize resources and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fight against malaria.
The webinar brought together over 225 participants from the private sector, international NGOs, academia, government organizations, and communities affected by malaria. GBCHealth partners Access Bank, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Abbott, Chevron, IQVIA, Sanofi, Sumitomo Chemical, and Vestergaard, among others joined the conversation.
Nancy Wildfeir-Field, President, GBCHealth kicked off the discussion, pointing out that like malaria, COVID-19 reminds us of the importance of prioritizing health, working to achieve universal health coverage and addressing the needs of vulnerable populations. She discussed how the private sector has been and continues to be an indispensable advocate, partner and stakeholder in addressing epidemics, and many other health issues.
Prof. Olugbenga Mokuolu, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, Nigeria gave a scientific overview of the Nigerian environment regarding malaria and the pathway to zero malaria. He stressed the idea of our collective responsibility for fighting malaria – #ZeroMalariaStartsWithMe – by discussing how individuals, governments and other partners have different but interconnected roles to play in getting malaria to zero.
Dr. Lynda Ozor, Malaria Programme Manager, WHO, Nigeria discussed how the pandemic is testing the resilience of health systems and how we can ensure access to key interventions. She discussed what organizations and governments can do to optimize and sustain malaria interventions and gave an overview of the methods being used to strengthen health systems in malaria endemic countries and to achieve the goals that have been established in the fight against malaria.
Dr. Audu Bala Mohammed, Director/National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) shared challenges being faced currently, such as those relating to the lockdown, availability of health services, problems with health workers on the frontlines, as well as modifications to interventions that are needed in these circumstances. He discussed how the NMEP is working and internally communicating in the face of COVID-19 challenges, and emphasized that the NMEP and its network of partners are working to mobilize funds and do everything possible to sustain innovative malaria interventions in Nigeria in these challenging circumstances.
Dr. Melanie Renshaw, Chief Technical Advisor, ALMA, and Co-Chair, Roll Back Malaria CRSPC discussed the support RBM is providing to countries to help sustain essential malaria services including prevention and case management during the COVID-19 pandemic. With almost 30 countries carrying out LLIN campaigns in 2020, RBM is supporting countries to adapt their campaigns to a door-to-door approach to minimize physical contact. This support includes updated guidance as well as implementation support through the Alliance for Malaria Prevention.
Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Unit Head, Sustainability, Corporate Communications, Access Bank and Co-Chair of CAMA discussed how the private sector, through its role as the driver of the global economy, has the responsibility to invest in health to ensure a healthy and prosperous society. She provided a reminder that despite all the recent success against malaria, cases are again on the rise and the pandemic threatens prior gains. She ended with a call to action for other partners to increase their commitment to a multi-sectoral approach to fighting malaria and COVID-19.
Dr. Francis Aminu, Health and Nutrition Director, Aliko Dangote Foundation emphasized that funding is critical to malaria efforts, highlighting the importance of and relationship between domestic and international funding. He also demonstrated the ways in which the capabilities of the private sector can complement public sector health efforts, highlighting how different sectors can contribute different strengths corresponding to their core capabilities to fight malaria.
A more detailed recap of webinar proceedings is available online.