Malaria vaccines, healthcare investment and renewed elimination strategies dominate talks at #DrawTheLine World Malaria Day special

The African youth-centric campaign against malaria themed #DrawTheLine, hosted a panel session to commemorate World Malaria Day on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Aired on Channels TV in partnership with award-winning talk show, Rubbin’ Minds, the discussion centred on evolving trends in the fight against malaria and tailoring these tools to the peculiarities of the Nigerian healthcare infrastructure.

Key malaria experts and healthcare practitioners who featured on the hour-long TV special include Dr, Perpetua Uhomoibhi –National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP); Dr. Akpaka Kalu –Team Lead, Tropical and Vector-borne diseases, WHO Regional Africa Office; Dr. Ola Brown –Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company; Lilies Njanga –Africa Director, Malaria No More UK; and Dr. Bobby Egemba, a health blogger and advocate.

Dr. Akpaka Kalu

Dr. Egemba kicked off the conversation by highlighting the changing perspectives of healthy living. According to him, “the future of healthcare is moving away from people’s health being solely within the hands of their doctors, to their own hands. Increasing individual access to healthcare information reduces the number of sick people in the hospitals, thereby relieving the burden on our fragile healthcare system.”

Increased responsibility and people-driven action are mainstays of the #DrawTheLine campaign, which is challenging young Africans to take back their future and demand an end to malaria through a specific call to action: visit zeromalaria.org and add their line to a growing piece of artwork which will be presented to world leaders at the Kigali Malaria Summit.

Speaking on how feasible it is to meet up with the WHO global target of reducing malaria case incidence by 90% in 2030, Lilies Njanga iterated a need to “return to the aggressive pace of malaria elimination in the early 2000s which reduced global cases of malaria by two-thirds. There is a correlation between malaria and poverty, thus accelerating action against poverty will have a direct impact on lessening the malaria burden.”

Dr. Brown attributed the delay in developing an effective malaria vaccine to the dearth of resources and lack of synergy, particularly amongst African countries. According to her, this was more evident in the short amount of time taken to develop the COVID-19 vaccine – “Now is the time for Nigeria and indeed Africa to own the narrative around the malaria vaccine through cross-border collaboration, scaling up investment in indigenous healthcare infrastructure, as well as pooling of human resources.”

The WHO is deploying a multi-tool approach to tackling malaria elimination and Dr. Kalu noted that a potentially successful vaccine is just one tool. He further shared regional strategies being adopted from the global malaria programme to mitigate the biological threats to permanent eradication of the disease, including monitoring of vector resistance levels to treatment and containment of large-scale invasion of new vector species.

The launch of Nigeria’s National Malaria Strategic Plan 2021-2025 will see the country adopt more data-driven elimination strategies using information collated at local government levels. According to Dr. Perpetua Uhomoibhi who leads the NMEP, this will inform “more tailored solutions that address the peculiarities of the malaria burden at sub-national levels.”

In the lead-up to World Malaria Day, Nigerian celebrities and culture influencers have lent their voices to the campaign, calling on their young audiences to visit the campaign website and draw the line. #DrawTheLine launched in February 2021, with African talents Dr. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Osas Ighodaro, Laolu NYC and Meji Alabi among others challenging young Africans to demand political action from their leaders to end malaria within their generation.

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