Statistics indicate that annual malaria deaths in Africa have decreased from an estimated 764,000 in 2000 to 395,000 in 2015.
According to a press statement issued yesterday by the Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), Ms Johannah-Joy Phumaphi, Africa has achieved historic progress in the fight against malaria over the past 15 years.
"Since 2000, malaria mortality rates in Africa have fallen by 66 per cent among all age groups and by 71 per cent among children under 5," noted Ms Phumaphi. Approximately 663 million cases of malaria have been averted in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 14 years.
In the wake of recognizing those who made it possible for the continent to make it this far, ALMA will today present awards to 13 African countries that have shown commitment, innovation and progress in the malaria fight.
The event is expected to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and among the guests is the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. ALMA 2016 Awards for Excellence will go to Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Swaziland for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target for malaria.
Liberia, Rwanda and Senegal will receive awards for best performance in malaria control between 2011 and 2015. The rest are Comoros, Guinea and Mali for being the Most Improved in Malaria Control between 2011 and 2015.
According to the World Health Organization, reductions in malaria cases attributable to malaria control activities saved an estimated $900 million in case management costs from 2001 to 2014.
The Chair of ALMA, Mr Hailemariam Dessalegn who is also the Prime Minister of Ethiopia affirmed that the success in these 13 countries and elsewhere across the continent demonstrates that strong leadership was the most powerful weapon against this ancient and deadly disease. "For the first time in history, a malaria-free Africa is in sight," affirmed Mr Dessalegn.
Many African leaders have made fighting malaria a key focus over the past several years, assisted by commitments from donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States' President's Malaria Initiative, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, and France's multilateral and bilateral contributions.
"ALMA is honoured to work with these inspiring leaders; they are saving lives and unlocking human potential as they rid their countries of this horrible scourge. With their renewed commitment and dedicated resources, I am confident Africa can eliminate this disease," said Ms Phumaphi.
A recent Lancet study concluded that reductions in malaria transmission and burden could be accelerated over the next 15 years if the level of coverage of current interventions is increased. Still, innovation is needed, particularly in areas with intense transmission.
Two of this year's awardees, Liberia and Guinea, were facing a severe Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015, making their successes in the area of malaria control all the more remarkable.
The African Leaders Malaria Alliance is a ground breaking coalition of 49 African heads of state and government working across the country and regional borders to achieve a malaria-free Africa by 2030.