On World Malaria Day, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf raised her voice with other global leaders to bring attention to the fight against the disease.
Speaking at the World Malaria Day reception at the US Senate organized by Malaria No More, Madam Sirleaf advocated for greater effort to support those involved in countering the disease, including community health workers:
“There are no visas that will stop a mosquito, or Omicron, or Delta of COVID-19. That’s why it’s so important to see this initiative for a global response.”
Madam Sirleaf joined the distinguished guests in calling for a renewed fight against malaria—one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases. The reception included Chris Coons, US Senator for Delaware and Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Roger Wicker, US Senator for Mississippi, Donald Kaberuka, Chair of the Global Fund, and Samantha Power, Administrator of USAID.
In an interview with NPR’s Marc Silver, Madam Sirleaf noted that malaria affects the African continent more than any other infectious disease. According to the World Health Organization, 241 million cases of malaria were recorded in 2020, and 627,000 people died of the disease, most of them children in Africa.
Global efforts, Madam Sirleaf said, are below par when it comes to supporting low-income countries in the fight against the disease:
“Health and sanitation facilities are not strong in these countries. That contributes to the growth of mosquitoes. There’s lots of response to that, but the response is not equal to the threat.”
Expressing her concern that malaria “seems a forgotten disease,” Madam Sirleaf urged more global recognition and financial commitments to support community health workers whose contributions are critical in identifying symptoms, reporting cases, and delivering aid:
“They don’t get the kind of recognition a trained specialist would, they don’t get the compensation consistent with the service they render. In Africa, we recognize this, and we’d like to put the emphasis on training community health workers.”
Read the full interview here.