The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomes the opportunity to address this Assembly and to pledge its continuing support as a major civil society partner in Rolling Back Malaria at the community level.
With its large networks of community volunteers, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are demonstrating how communities and its volunteers are contributing to the achievement of the Abuja Targets.
Since 2002, the Federation, working within a highly successful Measles Inititative Partnership, has promoted an integrated approach for large scale distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITN) in order to rapidly achieve high coverage at low cost.
First, one district in Ghana implemented an integrated measles and LLITN intervention and reached 15,600 households with children under 5 years. This was followed by a larger five district integrated health effort with 89,000 LLITNs distributed in Zambia in 2003. And finally an unprecedented nationwide integrated campaign with measles and polio vaccinations, mebendozole and LLITN distribution reached more than 875,000 children in Togo in late 2004.
In all these countries, surveys after the campaign showed ownership of LLITNs in households with children under five years of age increased to more than 90%.
In an attempt to reach greater scale and impact, the Federation is now working with the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Malaria and other partners, to implement a polio and LLITN nationwide effort in Niger in late 2005. This will involve the distribution of more than 2 million LLITNs in two weeks in a country with difficult and challenging logistics. But it can be done.
These large scale efforts are possible when three conditions are met.
First, there needs to be a pooling of resources and technology through effective partnering.
Secondly, there needs to be transparent joint planning and implementation with all interested actors at the country level as well as at the international level.
And thirdly, there needs to be an unprecedented emphasis on community mobilization to ensure that LLITNs are used properly.
The International Federation as well as other supporters of Roll Back Malaria are beginning to make impressive progress in getting LLITNs in the hands of those who need them most. That is the first step.
Success in meeting the 60% Abuja Target for children under 5 years and pregnant women sleeping under these LLITNs will require a whole new emphasis on community action. To do this more of the available malaria funds will need to focus on the people living in communities where the new behaviour of using LLITNs is critical for impact on disease reduction.
Thus, donors and Ministries of Health should consider providing more resources for community level behaviour change communication.
The past levels of support for this vital component have been insufficient. We must communicate more through schools, churches, women's groups, and all parts of civil society if Roll Back Malaria is to achieve impact.
As a leading force alongside civil society we further pledge to focus more and more of our resources on strengthening community action.
We will continue to work with national governments and our many partners to reach the most vulnerable populations and to ensure that communities know that they too are part of Rolling Back Malaria.