By Henry Neondo
Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo echoed calls by civil society for less declarations and more action in the global fight against malaria.
Addressing the AU Summit and its Permanent Delegation, African Ambassadors and representatives from the global health sector, Obasanjo called for renewed vigour in the continent’s fight against malaria.
While acknowledging that the Abuja targets had not yet been achieved, he confirmed that the pockets of success cited by a civil society representative need to be replicated on a large scale. Obasanjo abandoned his prepared speech in favour of applauding the words of those affected by HIV AIDS, TB and Malaria, who delivered moving speeches on the fourth and final day of this high level summit.
Malaria advocate, Louis da Gama, described the glimmers of hope he had witnessed all over Africa but urged all Ministers, Heads of State and participating international agencies to action. “ We need genuine political commitment not rhetoric, less declarations more action” he said.
“We have success stories, we have strong working Roll Back Malaria Partnerships at all levels – we have rapidly increasing donor resources - we must now deliver and achieve results on a large scale for a dramatic reduction in the global malaria burden by 2010. Let this Abuja Summit be remembered for real action against malaria, not promises. For success, not failure. For hope,” he said.
This year’s AU Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in Abuja marked the first progress report since the President hosted more than 44 Heads of State six years ago and set ambitious targets for malaria control in Africa.
Ministers of Health deliberated on the importance of a concerted effort by partners to combat malaria.
“To fight the continent’s most dreaded disease, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership launched in 1998 now includes a broad range of stakeholders and remains firmly in place to help properly focus resources and expertise,” asserted Professor Eyito Lambo, Hon. Federal Minister of Health of Nigeria and Chairman of the RBM Board.
“But with greater resources and political commitment comes greater urgency for action and accountability for results. The challenge now is how to harness this potential, he added.
Thanks to the Global Fund and new initiatives introduced by the World Bank, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation available resources to fight malaria have greatly increased - creating the potential for a new era in malaria control.
A key part of the solution is “a reinvigorated and refocused RBM Partnership” said Professor Lambo, referring to an intensive change management initiative meant to transform the independent global body.
Established by WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and UNDP, the Partnership comprises malaria-endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions.
Recognizing the importance of partnership in achieving the desired results in malaria endemic countries, the RBM Partnership Board mandated a re-engineering of the scope and structure of the global malaria body at its last meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
RBM partners have committed to clarifying the roles for the Partnership and its bodies, restructuring the collective to provide optimal support and harmonization at global, regional and local levels. Donors, implementing agencies and developing countries have pledged resources and greater institutional support to facilitate the process of creating a more effective Partnership and strengthened Secretariat.
“Donors, international NGO’s and endemic countries are united in the way they do business in the RBM Partnership.” Professor Lambo stated. “Harmonization of activities for country impact will be key if we are to succeed.”
“We remain fully committed to making the money work at the country level to achieve the RBM targets and lessen the impact of malaria on affected communities “ said Professor Richard GA Feachem, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “The Global Fund will be successful only if the RBM Partnership is successful.”
Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF emphasized the role of partnerships in reaching targets, “As a founding member of the RBM Partnership UNICEF pledges its support to facilitate the change process to enable RBM secretariat to play a key coordination role to achieve goals and objectives. This will help countries reduce malaria mortality and morbidity in line with the Abuja Summit Goals of 2000.”