As the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged public health systems around the world, it has caused severe disruption in over 80% of malaria programs globally, resulting in undetected cases and missed treatments for millions of people worldwide.
Malaria is transmitted by female mosquitoes carrying the parasite. When one of these mosquitoes bites someone, they can become infected with the disease and experience a range of flu-like symptoms and fever.
In April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa could double to 770,000 per year — twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018 — basically charting a path to malaria mortality levels last seen in the year 2000.
The WHO notes that children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable to the disease, accounting for 67% of malaria deaths in 2019.
More than 90% of all malaria cases worldwide occur in Africa but countries in Asia and Latin America are also facing similar challenges due to lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions.
This is part of the inspiration behind the “Draw the Line Against Malaria” campaign, a campaign launched this week that aims to use the worlds of art, fashion, music, sport, and more to inspire young people to call on their leaders and push for political action to end malaria within a generation.
The campaign is powered by stars and activists across Africa, including Nigerian actor Dr. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde; Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge; South African rugby player Siya Kolisi; Nigerian artist Láolú Senbanjo; Rwandan choreographer Sherrie Silver; and Nigerian actor Osas Ighodaro.
To mark the campaign launch, Olympic gold medal winner Kipchoge said: “I believe in the power of human potential and our ability to change the world, because no human is limited."
"Malaria has no place in our lives today," he added. "This disease has stolen from us for too long, stopping people from working and children from going to school. Even now, malaria is still taking the life of a young child every two minutes. We can change this, we can overtake this preventable, treatable disease and end it in my lifetime.”
Ekeinde added: “I have known this disease my whole life. This campaign is a moment for us to unite in determination and action, it’s time to take our futures back."
The campaign is calling on young people around the world to join the Zero Malaria Starts With Me movement, which started in Senegal in 2014, to demand and take action to end the world’s oldest and deadliest disease by “drawing a line” at zeromalaria.org.
With 74% of Africans now aged under 35, the continent’s young people are “powerful agents of change” according to the Zero Malaria Starts With Me movement, and this is a “rallying cry for them to step up action.”
Each person’s line will be added to a monumental mural, a piece of crowdsourced artwork called “The Muundo”, which will be delivered to world leaders at the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in June.
The summit is to be held in Rwanda on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and is, according to the campaign, a “milestone moment” in the fight against malaria.