Malaria was considered too difficult to beat. The historic progress seen in the new millennium has changed the trajectory of the disease, with global cases and deaths reduced by more than half since 2001. Despite this progress, the threat of malaria resurgence due to drug and insecticide resistance, climate change, and complacency requires leadership and communities in affected countries to continue the fight against malaria.
World Malaria Day is commemorated to refuel community engagement and leadership to focus efforts on the complete eradication of malaria. This year’s theme; ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me’, focuses on three groups of stakeholders critical to a successful fight against the disease: political leaders, the private sector, and most importantly communities. Each group has a unique yet complementary role to play in the fight.
ARHR through the Bridging Gaps: Innovate for Malaria project has been working with community members in the Western Region of Ghana on malaria; empowering them through community education and information sharing to improve on prevention and treatment of malaria and to hold their health care providers accountable for better services. This involves community based education on patient health rights and responsibilities, malaria prevention and control as well as the malaria service package. Educating communities in this way enables them to have the information they need to demand for better treatment and to take action to avoid getting malaria. One of the most significant successes of this project is the revival of Community Health Management Committees (CHMCs) which ensure community-level participation and accountability in health service delivery. These committees serve as forums for information sharing, coordination and monitoring of community level action plans to ensure responsive and accountable health service delivery.
Nonetheless, the work does not stop here. Reaching a point of zero malaria requires that leadership, public and private sector as well as the citizenry personalize the fight against malaria to avoid inaction and complacency. Leadership must continue to prioritize malaria in decision making and adopt policies to coordinate efforts in fighting malaria. Similarly, the private sector must continue to raise awareness on malaria and provide employees with life-saving malaria prevention and treatment tools.