By Dr Odry Agbessi, President of Association des Volontaires itinérants Actifs pour le Mieux-être des populations (VIA-ME)
Over the past 15 years the world has made remarkable strides in the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), with milestones such as The London Declaration on NTDs (2012), the Commonwealth’s commitment to malaria (2018-2023), and the World Health Organization’s NTD 2030 Roadmap. We are at a pivotal moment in the work to successfully eradicate malaria and NTDs across the African continent, but significant challenges remain. These diseases are developing in poverty-stricken areas, where access to quality health care and adequate sanitation is scarce and where the vulnerable suffer the most.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation estimated a total of 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, that took the lives of 409,000 people. A shocking 94% of all fatalities and cases occurred in Africa, 67% of which were among children under the age of five. NTDs affect over 1.5 billion people globally and Africa still carries the burden of nearly 40% of these diseases which cause immeasurable impacts that result in thousands of preventable deaths each year and cause long term disabilities.
What’s more, the consequences of these diseases are not just confined to health, but have become a major obstacle to social and economic development. Debilitating health and the high morbidity rates of diseases like NTDs stunt productivity, work opportunities, and education. As a result, millions of Africans have become trapped into a cycle of poverty – making these diseases all the more devastating. We have to change this. If we are to break this destructive cycle, it is critical we work together to increase awareness, funding, and action for malaria and NTDs.
With health, and the improvement of well-being of our communities at our core, Via Me has joined civil society organisations across West and Central Africa in the ‘March to Kigali’ campaign, to accelerate government action in the elimination of malaria and NTDs. Launched by a group of like-minded civil society organizations on April 7 this year, the campaign aims to ensure a steady drumbeat of activity as we lead up to the Kigali declaration. It also brings to light a renewed commitment and an integrated approach to advocating for the elimination of both NTDs and malaria. By keeping attention and action against these problems, we hope to put pressure on governments and leaders to take decisive action in the fight against both public health issues.
It is critical to have an inclusive, community approach that involves all sections of the population if we want to be successful in this fight. Everyone must play their part. That is why I am committing myself to the fight, and encouraging all of my African brothers and sisters to join our ‘March to Kigali’ call to action. By signing this petition, you too will be calling on governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector to work together and implement all the necessary steps to protect millions across the continent.
This public health crisis cannot wait any longer. Now is the time to come together, and eliminate malaria and NTDs for good. So, join us on the March to Kigali.