Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at World Malaria Day Commemoration
April 24, 2022 | Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, Wakiso District, Uganda | (as prepared for delivery)
I’m deeply honored to join you this morning and represent the United States government at this year’s World Malaria Day national commemoration. World Malaria Day provides a great opportunity to demonstrate our continued commitment to end malaria within a generation.
Through the U.S. Presidents Malaria Initiative or PMI, the United States collaborates with partner countries to scale up proven interventions to combat malaria. And Uganda’s theme and slogan for this year’s World Malaria Day commemoration both touch on issues that are a high priority for PMI: investing locally and mobilizing domestic resources to prevent as much disease as possible, and preventing all deaths due to malaria. I know these are also high priorities for the Government of Uganda.
World Malaria Day provides us with a common platform to discuss and learn from our diverse initiatives, with the goal of addressing our shared priorities. The day is a chance for us not only to intensify our efforts to fight this preventable and avoidable disease, but also to consider, even more critically, how best to utilize the available resources. Malaria control and elimination are key objectives of the U.S. government. In this, we have a shared vision with the Government of Uganda – that of a country where no child or pregnant woman dies because of malaria; where communities and health facilities have the medicines they need to save lives; and where there are enough trained health workers to properly diagnose and treat each and every Ugandan infected with malaria. Achieving this vision is critically urgent because of the devastating effects of malaria even among those who survive it, some of which can be traced to the period before conception. A woman who is affected by malaria usually has her immunity and nutritional status compromised. This goes on to affect the baby when the woman becomes pregnant. The malaria parasites hide in her placenta, affecting its functioning, including feeding the unborn baby. And this often results in premature birth, with low birth weight and cognitive delays that condemn children to poor educational and economical outcomes from the moment they entered this world. Similarly, children who get malaria can go on to suffer from lifelong disorders that profoundly affect their quality of life. These include stunting as the result of anemia and malnutrition, loss of motor skills, visual coordination impairment, as well as seizures. Furthermore, malaria has led to catastrophic expenditures for families who need to buy medication, travel to distant health facilities, and pay consultation fees and upkeep for caretakers when sick household members are admitted at a distant health facility. This is in addition to the loss of man hours for the sick and for those taking care of the sick. All of this has pushed many families below the poverty line, and the cascading effects – the long-term consequences for the nation are equally dire.
And these potential consequences are why since 2006, the U.S. government, through the President’s Malaria Initiative, has invested $448 million in malaria reduction and elimination in Uganda, supporting the Ministry of Health and saving the lives of many Ugandan men, women, and children.
In the last year, we provided Ugandans with 1.6 million mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide, an essential tool in preventing malaria. We also sprayed one million houses with protective insecticide that kills malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.
We supplied health facilities with approximately 1.3 million malaria testing kits and over 135,000 malaria treatments so they can test and treat Ugandans with symptoms of malaria fever.
Through our strong partnership with the Ministry of Health, these investments have helped to protect all Ugandans, and contributed to a reduction in all-cause deaths among children under five from 167 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 64 per 1,000 live births in 2016 according to the demographic and health survey.
Despite the significant successes we saw in the fight against malaria, more still needs to be done. The 2021 World Malaria Report showed that progress in malaria control has continued its six-year plateau.
We face new challenges in overcoming the remaining challenges, including recent supply disruptions and an ongoing malaria upsurge in 40 districts. Additionally, emerging issues, such as drug and insecticide resistance, threaten the efficacy of our tools. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly challenging to deliver much-needed commodities, such as testing equipment and malaria treatments, as quickly and safely as we would like due to the disruptions in global supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overcoming these challenges and getting back on track to reach malaria elimination will require a redoubling of our efforts, to use our resources more efficiently, and to develop and use new tools.
Two days ago, we launched a new activity under the President’s Malaria Initiative, a testament to the U.S. Government’s enduring commitment to our partnership with the Ugandan people to end malaria in Uganda and contribute to the wellbeing of Ugandans. The $38 million dollar investment will accelerate the objectives of the Ministry of Health National Malaria Control Division’s Uganda Malaria Reduction and Elimination Strategic Plan for 2021–2025, which aims to reduce malaria infections by 50 percent and malaria-related deaths by 75 percent in the regions of West Nile, Lango, Acholi, Karamoja, and Busoga, areas where Uganda’s malaria burden is highest.
To complement the U.S. investment, we call upon the Government of Uganda to increase the annual domestic resource allocation it budgets for health, including malaria, so that our combined efforts can synergistically sustain and maximize the gains from previous investments. Mobilization efforts must focus on increasing domestic revenue for health and improving the efficiency and transparency of its use.
The U.S. government commends the Ministry of Health and its dedicated employees for its role in our fruitful partnership and the successes we have seen in malaria control in Uganda. Together, we have saved the lives of many Ugandan children, women, and men, and – together – we can save even more lives with a renewed commitment to the effort and a drive to translate commitments into actions.