By Dr. Richard Kamwi, Elimination 8 Ambassador and former Minister of Health of Namibia, and Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund
Mosquitoes and the malaria parasite do not respect borders. Despite tremendous progress in halving malaria deaths in the last decade, this preventable and treatable disease kills approximately 450,000 people a year. So as we chart a course to save more lives and eliminate the disease, our response needs to stretch across national boundaries in order to reach people at risk of malaria with the most effective prevention and treatment strategies.
The nations of southern Africa are providing the roadmap towards malaria elimination by coming together under an eight-country effort called the Elimination 8. Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland--the frontline countries--are projected to achieve the historic goal of eliminating malaria by 2020. They will be joined by Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, who expect to also fulfill this goal by 2030.
These southern African countries have made remarkable progress in driving down malaria. They have decreased malaria cases by more than 50 percent since 2004, and by the end of 2015, the frontline countries are projected to be on track to decrease malaria incidence by more than 75 percent since 2000. This progress has contributed to the achievement of the malaria target of Millennium Development Goal 6.
However, challenges to eliminating malaria persist. One of the greatest of these includes reaching migrants and mobile populations with quality health care. Southern Africa has a large number of mobile and migrant populations, including field workers, traders and miners, many of whom are at greater risk of malaria because they may lack access to malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
In this context, cross-border and coordinated regional efforts can be a game-changer in the fight against malaria. Aligning policies and strengthening regional surveillance, analysis, and diagnostics, will spur progress towards elimination. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is supporting these efforts through a regional grant to increase malaria services in border areas and to improve regional surveillance.
Three regions aim to become malaria-free by 2030: the Americas, Asia Pacific and southern Africa. Southern Africa's progress and leadership in the fight against malaria was recognized during a meeting of Ministers of Health of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Kasane, Botswana last week, to mark SADC Malaria Day. The Elimination 8 effort is an example of how a regional collaboration can accelerate progress towards a malaria-free world within a generation.
No single country will be able to achieve malaria elimination alone. But through committed, regional partnerships, the world has an opportunity to end a disease that slows human development and prosperity. These coordinated efforts require sustainable investment in order to maintain the gains.