Roundup: Kenya urges world to step up fight against malaria amid COVID-19 outbreak

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NAIROBI, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday called on the international community to step up malaria prevention measures even as the continent strives to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Kenyatta also called on world leaders not to lose track of the collective war against other diseases that continue to cause human suffering around the world.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is a hurdle that risks stalling or at worst, rolling back the gains we have made in the fight against malaria in Africa," Kenyatta said in a statement issued to mark World Malaria Day.

The president who is also the chairperson of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) said the pressure the pandemic has put on the continent's health systems, if not well managed, has the potential to disrupt the provision of not only malaria services but also other important healthcare interventions.

He said the World Malaria Day gives the global community an opportunity to reflect on the progress it has made in the fight against malaria even as governments continue implementing interventions to end the disease in Africa by the year 2030.

Kenyatta said malaria has ravaged communities for decades and is considered to be, largely, an African problem with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for some 93 percent of global malaria cases.

"In many African countries, malaria is the leading cause of hospital visits which exerts unbearable financial pressure on households," he said.

According to the World Malaria Report 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93 percent of all malaria cases and 94 percent of deaths in 2018. More than two-thirds of deaths were among children under the age of five.

Kenyatta reaffirmed his commitment as ALMA chairperson, to continue working together with African Heads of State and government, and other stakeholders in mobilizing resources needed to defeat malaria on the continent.

Going forward, he said, the focus for ALMA remains the protection of the gains made in malaria control through prevention, treatment, and the roll-out of interventions such as the malaria vaccine which is under phased implementation in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.

He said ALMA will also focus on boosting Africa's purchasing power and local manufacturing of critical medical supplies through regional partnerships and collaborations.

"Once again, as ALMA calls upon us to acknowledge that zero malaria starts with me, let us also agree that zero coronavirus infections start with me, you, all of us," said Kenyatta.

In Kenya, he said, his government has significantly lowered malaria prevalence from a high of six million infections to 4.6 million over the last ten years.

"This progress is largely a result of support and cooperation between the Government, development partners and our frontline health providers such as doctors, nurses and other cadres of our gallant medical personnel," said Kenyatta.

He called for the strengthening of health systems especially at the sub-national and community levels by considering an integrated approach to manage the COVID-19, whereby malaria services are offered as part of the essential health package.

The Kenyan leader said his government will continue to scale up malaria prevention efforts through the distribution of over 15 million treated mosquito nets this year to cover about 25 million vulnerable Kenyans. Enditem

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