investing in women and girls – Jeune Afrique

I contracted malaria decades ago when I was a little girl, but I remember it like it was yesterday. With a weakened body, I could no longer eat, sleep, or go to school. Illness has claimed several of my friends, and I am horrified at the thought of death. I survived because I was lucky: strong and literate women took me under their wing and restored my health. Even today, communities pay a high price for malaria, and women and girls pay an inordinate share. This preventable and treatable disease is one of the leading causes of death among adolescent girls worldwide. Every minute he kills a child.

In the first line

But women and girls are not just patients; they are also health care providers and are often the first to care for the sick. When a family member falls ill, it is women and girls who stay at home to care for them, missing work or school and losing billions of dollars in lost income and productivity every year.

In recent years, tremendous progress has been made in the fight against malaria. I am convinced that this disease can be overcome in one generation. We will achieve this only if we seize the opportunities and invest in initiatives that enable women and girls to play a leading role. The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.

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Fighting malaria, a byproduct of Covid-19

This week, world leaders are taking part in the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This is an opportunity for leaders to make important decisions about where to direct their investments in order to achieve the maximum impact on health security. Some issues are priorities and I hope they are at the top of the agenda.

Priority Issues

First, the resources of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the extremely effective international organization founded 20 years ago to eliminate these three diseases, must be fully replenished. Investing in the Global Fund remains one of the best ways to accelerate the eradication of malaria. Over the past two decades, the Global Fund has helped prevent 10.6 million malaria deaths and more than 1.7 billion cases.

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Global Fund: Africa doubles its contribution to fight HIV, malaria and tuberculosis

Removing gender and human rights barriers is an integral part of the work of the Global Fund. Through its programs, the organization helps women and girls access health services and opens doors for them to leadership positions.
The Global Fund needs to raise at least $18 billion to continue its work over the next three years. This amount will save another 20 million lives and prevent more than 450 million infections while promoting gender equality.

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Kigali summit: historic opportunity to end neglected diseases

Second, invest in training to increase the number of community health workers. Globally, 70% of public health workers are women. They provide a vital first line of defense against public health threats such as COVID-19, especially in isolated communities. Recognizing the critical importance of community health workers, the Global Fund has funded the training of more than two million of them in the countries it invests in. These skilled professionals are needed to prevent, detect and monitor not only malaria, but also other diseases – as such, they are an important link in preventing pandemics.

Third, malaria program managers need comprehensive data to make informed decisions about allocating resources to reduce malaria. The data is not currently disaggregated by sex or age. Under these conditions, it is difficult to understand the impact of the disease on women and girls and to find effective ways to improve their access to interventions that could save their lives.

Bring real change

The Global Fund works with the countries it invests in to collect this data through systems such as the Malaria Matchbox tool, which assesses the fairness of existing malaria control services. Today, more than 50% of countries collaborating with the Global Fund provide fully disaggregated data by sex and age. This data helps to better understand gender inequalities and inform programming, funding, and policy decisions.

As leaders from all over the world come together, let’s take this opportunity to make a real difference.
I will stop fighting only when women, girls and families stop living in fear of being swept away by this preventable and treatable disease. There is no time to waste. Let’s invest in what matters to everyone’s health and safety.