- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
This post was originally published on The East African. Guest bloggers Ray Chambers is the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria; Mark Green was U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and currently is Director of the Malaria No More Policy Center in Washington, DC; and John Bridgeland is a former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and currently is Vice Chairman of Malaria No More. The Case Foundation, Jean Case and Steve Case are also part of the UN Social Media Envoy Group.
For decades, malaria was the disease of sad contradiction. With a sense of fatalism, Africans accepted it as the leading single killer of pregnant women and children under 5, even though those one million deaths a year were fully preventable and treatable. In the last five years, the international community has awakened to combat this needless killer, pumping billions of dollars in foreign aid for bed nets, miracle drugs, and other interventions to save lives.
The ambitious goals of covering the African continent with essential, life-saving tools to prevent and treat malaria are now within reach, thanks to the combined leadership and financial contributions of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, President Obama’s new Global Health Initiative working in tandem with the President’s Malaria Initiative, and the World Bank.
The World Bank just announced a commitment of $200 million to close half of the remaining funding gap for the purchase of bed nets. Within the last year, 26 African heads of state have formed a unique partnership to collaborate to end malaria deaths by 2015. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) is addressing barriers to effective malaria control that only Africans can overcome.
To increase the supply and accelerate the procurement of bed nets in their countries, they are purchasing nets in bulk; to reduce their cost, some are eliminating taxes and tariffs on bed nets; and to be the first generation to educate the people on how to wipe out malaria, even some heads of state are mobilizing businesses, faith communities, non-profit leaders and citizens in country-wide campaigns. The Nigerian Government has just committed to buy 10 million bed nets to close its supply gap, and is supporting the mobilization of Christian and Muslim leadership in a new alliance against malaria.
The President of Tanzania recently launched a powerful nationwide campaign called “Zinduka” – to literally wake up Tanzanians to help conquer this disease of apathy – and Tanzania will offer in 2010 universal access to both bed nets and affordable drug treatments. Zanzibar shows that malaria deaths can come to an end.
This week, leaders of ALMA, joined by their supporters, are meeting in Dar es Salaam alongside the World Economic Forum Africa to mark important gains in the effort to scale-up access to malaria control interventions, and to applaud the announcement of important new financial commitments. One private sector leader who’s seen this work on the ground in Africa for years put it this way, “foreign aid comes and goes and progress on malaria comes and goes. But this movement is a new model of governance – the first time African leaders are embracing their own destinies, married with sufficient resources to get the job done. This is malaria’s moment.” Even citizens at the grassroots are doing their part with campaigns such as Malaria No More, Spread the Net, Nothing But Nets and United Against Malaria, enlisting American Idol television viewers, actors, athletes, musicians and others with deep reach into the culture across many countries to buy $10 bed nets and save lives.
During this important week around World Malaria Day, Twitter messages from leaders like Colin Powell and Bill Gates reached more than 50 million people to raise awareness and funds.
These social media efforts will continue every month through the end of 2010, the date the United Nations Secretary General has set to ensure every person in need of a bed net to prevent malaria has one. These developments are all cause for celebration, but the most important ingredient for sustained success will be African leadership to use this aid wisely and sustain efforts over time.
President Obama put a fine point on this need in his speech in Accra, Ghana where he said simply, “Africa’s future is up to Africans.”
The hope of ending malaria deaths is starting to mobilize African leadership and will continue to do so during the May World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam. Barriers clearly remain. But malaria is no longer a disease of apathy because African leaders and the citizens they represent are embracing the view that Africa’s future is up to Africans.
By doing so, this is both malaria’s moment and a test of the power of African leadership to address its own challenges. Up to a million lives a year are at stake.