The Malaria Situation Room, a joint initiative that will provide critical malaria intelligence in support of ten African countries, was launched today at a special African Union (AU) Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Situation Room is spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, together with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Malaria, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The initiative offers urgent, strategic support to the 10 hardest-hit countries in Africa – Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Niger- as they strive to achieve the health-related MDGs and ambitious RBM targets of a 75% reduction in the number of new malaria cases, and near-zero malaria deaths before the end of 2015.
Bottlenecks related to financing, human resources, procurement and supply chain in many countries,interrupt the flow of lifesaving commodities such as medicines, diagnostics and mosquito nets and prevent them from reaching the people who need them most.
The Situation Room, with three years of operational funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will work with the countries to identify and track the flow of funding and supply of essential commodities, as well as coverage with life-saving interventions. It will collate data from each country, to anticipate bottlenecks and will work with the countries to develop rapid solutions, liaising with a powerful network of partners, who can mobilize resources and translate information into action.
“The ten countries have been doing courageous work in fighting malaria, but given the scope of the problem and the fast-approaching MDG target-date of 2015, we are pleased to be able to offer them additional support,” says Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.
“We are very excited about this new initiative,” says Dr Robert Newman, Director, WHO-GMP,”because as strong, engaged partners, we can tap our global and regional network to resolve financial and technical bottlenecks. By working closely with these hardest-hit countries to mobilize resources, we can ensure that no one dies for lack of a 5 dollar bednet, or a 50 cent diagnostic test and a 1 dollar antimalarial treatment.”
Globally, funding for malaria programmes rose from less than US$100 million in 2000 to over US$1.8 billion in 2012. Over the past decade, access to prevention and treatment has improved in many countries, resulting in an estimated 26% decrease in global malaria death rates, and a 33% decrease in the WHO African Region.
But malaria is still a major killer, claiming an estimated 660,000 lives (range 490,000 to 836,000) around the world in 2010, and causing an estimated 219 million cases (range 154 to 289 million) of clinical malaria. About 90% of those deaths and 80% of the cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where one child dies needlessly from malaria every minute.
“As we assess the challenges ahead, it is clear that a number of African countries will need to accelerate action to reduce the still high burden of malaria deaths and disease by 2015,” says Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs. “This new initiative is warmly welcomed by the African Union.”
The ten Situation Room countries collectively bear over 70% of the malaria burden, with the highest infection and death rates in Africa and the world.
“As we count down to the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, it has become imperative to accelerate progress in the areas where we are either not on track or are far from target,” says Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, Honourable Minister of Health of Nigeria. “This initiative is therefore timely and provides the framework for the scientific monitoring of progress and identification of specific gaps in implementation. It will enable us in Nigeria to secure much needed resources to upscale some of the under-emphasized intervention strategies without which the fight against malaria cannot be won.”
Created as a joint initiative in 2012, the Malaria Situation Room is made up of a small dedicated team of staff seconded from different partner organizations, and is located within the WHO and RBM Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland and the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO) in Brazzaville, Congo. The team will be supported by a high-level Steering Committee that will provide guidance and support and make the necessary links at the highest levels to help resolve bottlenecks.
“In order to significantly reduce malaria in Africa, we have to make progress in the highest burden countries. This is why the ALMA Secretariat has seconded staff to the Malaria Situation Room,” says Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of ALMA.
Key information gathered by the Situation Room will be shared with the partners and malaria control programmes of the 10 countries via weekly teleconferences and a dedicated website.
Also presented during the Ministerial event on malaria were the latest quarterly update of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Scorecard for Accountability and Action, which tracks progress by malaria-endemic countries across Africa, and a new WHO manual on larval source management, which describes how and when to use different methods of controlling mosquito breeding sites in tandem with other key malaria interventions, such as treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying.
 The World Health Organization (WHO), the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and Malaria, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
 WHO-GMP, IFRC, ALMA, the RBM Secretariat.
 ALMA, the WHO Global Malaria Programme (WHO-GMP) and the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO), the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), the President’s Malaria Initiative –U.S. (PMI), the Global Fund, the RBM Secretariat, and the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Malaria.
Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM)