MDG 2010 - Session summary 2

Saving mothers and children with malaria control: countdown to the Millennium Development Goals

By Maude Froberg in New York

This side event was attended by some 270 people, among them First Ladies, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Chief Executive Officers, Ambassadors, heads of agencies, journalists, and other high-level decision-makers.

Opening remarks

In his introductory speech, IFRC Secretary General Mr Bekele Geleta recalls that “Addressing malaria is such a huge task. No single state, organization, company, or community can meet malaria's challenges alone. Cooperation and coordination are critical elements to ensure an effective and sustained response to control malaria.”

The wife of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, in her turn, addressed the audience “This is the most important side event this week.”

“Tackling malaria will bring us closer in achieving the MDGs on children and maternity health, and education.”

Presentation of the report “Beyond prevention: Home management of malaria in Kenya”

The report presents a successful malarial prevention programme, carried out by the Kenya Red Cross and the Kenyan Ministry of Health with support from the Canadian Red Cross, ensuring that remote communities have access to prompt and effective malaria treatment.

1. Hon Beth Mugo, Kenyan Minister of Public Health and Sanitation

“Since malaria can kill within 24 hours, a prompt and correct diagnosis is needed. Trained community health workers play a crucial role, and as the home management programme showed the proportion of children receiving care within 24 hours rose from 9 to 30 per cent.”

“Community based health volunteers are an efficient channel to pass on health messages to mothers.”

2. Mr Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross

“In Kenya, 80 per cent of the population of 38 million are affected by malaria. There is a lack of formally-trained health workers, and a lack of treatment access. But with simple methods, large results could be achieved within a short period of time.”

“As shown in our malaria programme, 82 per cent of cases were treated within 24 hours. The holistic health further lead to mother and child care being addressed through local solutions, and ownership of the result entailed a nationwide approach.”

“In 2010 Kenya Red Cross was named champion for best progress towards the MDGs.”

3. Mr Conrad Sauvé, Secretary General of the Canadian Red Cross

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the individual volunteer will be the cornerstone of our success in rolling back malaria.”

“The Canadian Red Cross has been involved in mosquito net distributions for more than seven years. In that time, through the generosity of both individual Canadians and the Canadian government, we’ve been able to raise 47 million Canadian dollars, allowing us to help distribute some 7 million nets in 12 campaigns in Africa.

“The results have been extremely positive. For example: We reached more than 80 per cent coverage rates in Togo, Cross River state in Nigeria, Liberia and Mali; In post-campaign household surveys, 7 in 10 children under the age of five in Liberia, Mali, Togo and Madagascar were found to be sleeping under a net; in Liberia, 9 in 10 households in the target communities received health and hygiene messages through Red Cross volunteers. But the most important fact concerning these campaigns is that – based on the internationally accepted Cochrane methodology - about 180,000 lives have been saved as a direct result.

“We also see that the development of these local networks of volunteers has an important multiplier-effect beyond malaria. Not only can we get the nets and the anti-malaria drugs out to where they’re needed, we can also train the same volunteers to assist with other lifesaving interventions such as rapid diagnostic tests, preventative medicine for pregnant mothers, helping families produce clean drinking water, measles and polio vaccinations, treatment for intestinal worms, and vitamin ‘A’ supplements to help protect kids against other childhood illnesses.”

Challenges and successes in maternal and child health on the African continent

Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka, MC of the side event and the Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador has presented the final piece on the agenda. Some 25 minutes of her movie, The Motherland Tour - a journey of African women, was aired.

The Motherland Tour highlights the challenges and successes in maternal and child health on the African continent, and demonstrates how the empowerment of women is at the heart of the development goals, particularly the ones focused on poverty, health, and education. More important, Ms. Chaka Chaka, once an anti-apartheid activist, has been using the film screenings to call donor countries to replenish the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to help redress global inequities.

In the documentary, she says, among other things, “When one of my musicians died of malaria, I decided I had to do something.

“Is it a crime to be born in Africa? Is it a crime to be born poor?”