The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested malaria control efforts and has hurt progress in tackling malaria across many countries. There is general consensus that a more coordinated, intentional, and focused effort is urgently required.
In order to catalyze new ways of thinking, develop cross-sector partnerships and leverage both existing and new resources to respond to these challenges, GBCHealth and the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) convened a series of virtual dialogues between March-May 2021, under the theme Partnerships to Step Up Investments in Malaria.
The events brought together recognized global health, malaria leaders and influencers to engage in frank and open conversation. Participants discussed the importance of scaling up existing activities, adopting new measures to prevent a spike in malaria deaths during the pandemic, and creating innovative investment approaches to support the longer-term goal of eliminating malaria and strengthening health systems globally.
Speakers included leaders from governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society, including Africa CDC, The Global Fund, PATH, the World Health Organization, the Ghana Health Service, the Nigeria Ministry of Health and National Malaria Elimination Program, the Rwanda Ministry of Health, Access Bank, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Novartis, Vestergaard, and more.
A new report highlights the insights and key takeaways that emerged from the expert discussion during the series. Recommendations include:
- The need for a multi-faceted response in high-burden countries: Achieving vector control and elimination in high-burden countries requires a range of approaches, including mass distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), health workforce development and community engagement.
- The business case for investment in malaria control and elimination is strong: In addition to its human toll, malaria causes absenteeism and lost productivity for businesses, impacting family livelihoods and income. Investment in malaria control leads to increased profitability and lower workforce healthcare costs, benefiting businesses, national development and poverty eradication.
- A widespread problem requires targeted, diversified solutions: To maximize impact the most suitable tool(s) for each area and group of people need to be identified; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Stratified interventions are required to make optimum use of resources.
- The regulatory environment needs to adapt to facilitate ongoing innovation: Regulations are crucial to ensure quality products. Organizations – both public and private sector – need to work with government regulators to safely reduce the time it takes new innovations to reach those who need them.
- Eliminating malaria requires a variety of innovative tools: New vector control tools are constantly being developed to bolster the fight against malaria, including those related to IRS, LLINs, vaccines, treatments, diagnosis, data, telemedicine and more. Increased investments are critical to drive ongoing innovation.
- Increasing the quality of vector control is vital: An end-to-end quality framework must be established to test the effectiveness of LLINs and other tools throughout their lifetime.
- Harnessing momentum from the COVID-19 response to address global inequality: COVID-19 has starkly revealed global inequality in access to medical services. However, there are also positive lessons gleaned from the pandemic response, such as the potential of surveillance-based interventions to monitor transmission, the capacity to rapidly develop new vaccines, and the power of multi-sectoral partnerships and political leadership. All of these have relevance for tackling malaria.
- Boosting the capacity of health workers at the frontline is critical: Community health workers are the first line of defense against any health threat. Increasing investment in community health is vital to support the fight against malaria, the COVID-19 response, and health systems strengthening more broadly.
- Reframing the fight against malaria: The impact of malaria should be seen not only as a health issue but as a socio-economic issue that requires a whole-of-society response, led by high-level political awareness, commitment and coordination.
- Overcoming funding challenges: Innovative financing mechanisms and multisectoral partnerships are needed to support small private NGOs and clinics, and to facilitate private sector development of new tools, medicines and diagnostics.
- The importance of leadership: The private sector, governments and NGOs need to support and invest in long-term leadership development. Typically, funding in leadership and management is limited and/or short-term and does not lead to sustainable changes in mindsets, behaviors and strategy. Without serious investment in leadership and management capacity strengthening, other interventions are less likely to be successful.
- Creating enabling environments for private sector impact: Private sector engagement must be aligned to public health priorities through open communication and active coordination.
The dialogue series culminated in the launch of the End Malaria Project, a 3-year initiative led by CAMA. Working closely with partners in Nigeria, and more widely across Africa over the longer term, the End Malaria Project will catalyze private sector resources and capabilities to increase awareness and support malaria control efforts, saving at least 50,000 lives by 2023.
The goal of this dialogue series was to consider how to build on existing efforts, bring new voices to the table, explore innovative financing models and better understand how to take efforts to scale. GBCHealth and CAMA are committed to leveraging the power of the private sector in this effort and to work collaboratively with partners more broadly to fight malaria and build a healthier world. To find out more about how to join this effort, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.