Friday, April 24, 2009


For publication on April 25, 2009 in local newspapers
Abuja, Nigeria
April 24, 2009

By Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria

Today, we commemorate World Malaria Day with you, to celebrate your achievements, and rededicate the historic partnership between Nigeria and the United States to defeat this preventable and treatable killer.

For about half the world’s population, malaria remains one of the greatest threats to public health. It is a disease that causes poverty, disrupts the livelihood of families, and far too often, steals the future of Africa's children. In tropical Africa, the disease kills nearly 3,000 people each day with young children and pregnant women at greatest risk. Nigeria, with Africa’s largest population, has the world’s greatest burden of malaria illness and an estimated 300,000 children die here each year from this disease.

World Malaria Day is observed April 25 to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. On World Malaria Day, Americans stand in solidarity with Nigeria and communities across the globe in the fight against malaria, On behalf of the American people, the United States Government (USG) has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease both in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Under the President’s Malaria Initiative, $1.2 billion is being made available over five years to expand resources to fight malaria.

The strategy in Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa, is straightforward. First, prevention: the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets or the provision of indoor spraying to provide protection from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and preventive malaria treatment to expectant mothers during pregnancy. Second, treatment: new and highly effective medicines are distributed and health workers are trained on the proper use of those medicines.

In Nigeria all of the above measures have been introduced but need to be greatly expanded to achieve national impact. The Nigerian government, working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, UNICEF and others, is poised for a dramatic expansion of its control program over the next two years, including a target of reaching 80% of all households in Nigeria with long lasting insecticidal bednets by the end of 2010. The U.S. Government through USAID has doubled its contribution to $16 million this year in order to play a larger role in this historic effort.

Similar programs in Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania are already showing signs of major reductions in the proportion of people infected with malaria. At the same time in Rwanda and Zambia, there has been a striking reduction in deaths among children under the age of five. On the isles of Zanzibar in Tanzania, malaria infection rates have dropped to less than 1% throughout the population of 1 million. Malaria prevention and treatment measures are associated with and can contribute to these reductions. Regional and district-level impact has also been reported from Mozambique and Uganda. With national expansion of key interventions, Nigeria should see similar reductions in infections and deaths.

Sustainability of malaria control programs is a critical goal of USG efforts. In Nigeria, the U.S. Government through USAID is helping to build capacity by training people to manage, deliver, and support the delivery of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against malaria and other infectious diseases. We also partner with community groups and faith-based organizations. They bring tremendous value to malaria control efforts given their credibility within their communities, their ability to reach the grassroots level, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers.

Across Nigeria and all of Africa, children and their families are sleeping under bed nets; local groups are teaching mothers to take anti-malarial drugs when they are pregnant and seek proper treatment for their sick children. In schools and villages, community centers and places of worship, clinics and hospitals, optimism is growing that we can and will succeed. We share that optimism. The United States will continue to galvanize action and spur grassroots and private sector efforts to control this disease.