The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: President Sirleaf Raps On Progress Against Malaria

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has disclosed that there has been unprecedented success in scaling up malaria control, with a 33 percent decrease in malaria deaths in Africa over the last decade.President Sirleaf said however, the current global funding crisis threatens this progress and the achievement of the health MDGs - Goals 4, 5 and 6.

"Our national malaria control programs have completed comprehensive programmatic and financial gap analyses, detailing a $3.7 billion gap in the finances needed to sustain universal coverage of essential malaria interventions to the end of 2015 in Africa," President Sirleaf said.

"I speak on behalf of the 44 ALMA Heads of State and Government. As the world begins discussions on the post-2015 development framework, African leaders understand that we have a three-year window to leverage every resource to ensure that we achieve the health goals for our people and to develop plans to sustain the gains," she said.

President Sirleaf said in the coming months, the High-Level Panel, which she has the honor to co-Chair with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono, will lay the groundwork for a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and for sustainable development at its core.

"This new agenda must build on the successes that will have been achieved during the MDG era," she added.

President Sirleaf who is Chairman of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) was speaking at the United Nations Secretary General's Every Woman Every Child Dinner held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York recently.

President Sirleaf said over the summer, African leaders rallied and decided that they will be at the forefront of The Big Push to 2015.

In this vein, President Sirleaf said African leaders have decided that it was important to call upon their bilateral, private sector, NGO, CBO, foundation and Development Bank partners to keep their commitments to global health. "They have done a great job thus far, but more is needed because the whole world benefits when our people thrive," she averred.

She said African leaders have also decided to ensure value for money across all aspects of prevention and treatment which means full transparency and accountability and realizing efficiencies wherever they can be found.

She said ALMA has worked, over the past years with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to model sustained financing plans and to look at financial management best practices.

"We support the roll-out of procurement efficiencies, such as pooled procurement, standardization of net specifications and local manufacture of anti-malarial commodities. By doing so, we can save hundreds of millions of dollars. Uganda, for example, saved $17 million by standardizing mosquito net specifications and opting for pooled procurement," the Liberian leader said.

She said African leaders have also decided to increase domestic resources from the public and private sectors, key elements of The Big Push to 2015 and beyond while committing to allocate 15 percent of public sector funds to health.

President Sirleaf said in 2011, fourteen countries increased their commitments and four others achieved the Abuja target. "Further, there are excellent examples of private sector engagement in this room tonight, and we look to them to boost their health support efforts. Among ALMA member countries, Zambia has shown us a tremendous example, recently announcing a 45 percent increase in domestic spending on health - an announcement that will increase their spending to a level above and beyond the 15.7 percent of public funds they spent on health in 2011," she noted.

She said African leaders will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that they expand access to prevention and treatment and sustain the fragile gains made to date.

President Sirleaf who is the chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) said, "We are keen to enroll more countries in financing initiatives such as UNITAID's airline tax, which has raised over $2 billion for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We are also looking for other innovative ways. Indeed, my colleague, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, has our support in pursing the creation of a tax on financial transactions to fund health across Africa".

She said ALMA will work simultaneously with its partners, the African Development Bank, the Global Fund, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank, the UK's Department for International Development, France and the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) to build sustainable funding plans and ensure quality financial management.

The President noted that this will include priority setting and accountability for results.

She also disclosed that interested stakeholders will be able to track the ALMA work and progress through the ALMA Scorecard for Accountability and Action, which is easily accessible on the ALMA website and through the innovative ALMA app for iPad.

President Sirleaf said, "We are at a critical stage in our common fight against poverty, disease and ill health and the enormous gains that we have made over the past decade are threatened by a global financial crisis."

She added that if the African leaders give up now, it will mean an even longer recovery as the African continent, a strong growth area for the global economy will be plunged back into reduced productivity and instability which is a recipe for more disease and suffering.

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