Blantyre, Malawi — Malawi's government Tuesday announced a goal to eliminate malaria, a leading cause of death in the country, by 2030. The mosquito-spread parasitic disease accounts for about 15% of Malawi's hospital admissions.
Speaking during a televised launch of a nationwide anti-malaria initiative known as 'Zero Malaria Starts with Me' campaign, President Lazarus Chakwera said statistics on malaria infection in the country are worrying.
He said malaria contributed about 36% of all out-patient department cases and 15% of all hospital admissions in Malawi.
"This creates a lot of work for our health workers and pressure on drugs in our public health facilities. And additionally, malaria remains the leading cause of death in Malawi claiming six lives every day," said Chakwera.
President Chakwera said last year, Malawi registered 6.9 million malaria cases - more than a third of the total population -- and lost 2,500 lives because of the disease. It killed more Malawians than any other disease, including COVID-19.
The Malawi leader said his administration is committed to do whatever it takes to create a malaria-free country.
"And admittedly this commitment cannot be government's alone. Malaria is a collective problem that demands collective strategy," said Chakwera. "By collective strategy I am referring to private sector players and development partners who need to put money where their mouth is and join their resources to ours so we finance this fight together."
Chakwera announced what he called 'ten commandments' which would help in preventing and cure the disease.
These include, clearing all breeding grounds for mosquitoes, timely taking of prescribed malaria medication and sleeping under a mosquito net.
"My administration will distribute 9,258,645 mosquito nets in 25 districts, and also indoor residual spraying in the districts of Nkhata-bay, Nkhota-kota, Balaka and Mangochi," said Chakwera. "Currently only 55% of Malawians sleep under mosquito nets, and we need to get to a 100% to prevail."
The initiative is part of the global campaign to end Malaria by 2030.
The U.S. President's Malaria Initiative, launched in 2005, is among the financiers of the campaign.
As the World Health Organization marks World Malaria Day, April 25, Malawi has launched the pilot phase of Africa's first ever malaria vaccine.The WHO chose Malawi, alongside Ghana and Kenya, because of the high numbers of malaria cases and treatment facilities. The pilot phase aims to vaccinate 360,000 children per year, 120,000 of them in Malawi.
The program's team leader in Malawi, Monica Batista, explained how malaria personally affected her.
"When I first started working for malaria, it was not a personal issue for me," said Batista . "That all changed just six months ago when I lost a dear friend to malaria. Now the fight against malaria is personal for me. I understand what it feels like to lose a loved one to this preventable disease."
She said the U.S. government has for the past 15 years contributed about $270 million towards malaria prevention and control activities in Malawi.
"The strides we have made against malaria, though significant, are delicate and incomplete," said Batista. "To defeat malaria, we will need a more concerted effort among the private sector, the public sector and civil society together as a whole."
She said the launch of Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign serves as a call to action.