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The 1st of February 2018 marked my first year in office as CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. It has been a remarkable year for the reinvigorated RBM Partnership and, with the new Partnership mechanisms, Board-approved Strategic Plan 2018-2020, and the Secretariat team in place, we have now reached our ‘cruising altitude’ just in time for this crucial year for the global malaria community.

In this month’s update, I would like to share three of the Partnership’s priority initiatives for 2018.

Mobilising political commitment: We have entered 2018 firmly at a crossroads in the fight against malaria, especially in Africa which carries more than 90% of the disease burden and progress has stalled over the past few years. We need a new movement to mobilise the political will and resources, as well as citizen action, towards effective malaria control and elimination.

Inspired by Senegal’s “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign, the RBM Partnership and the African Union Commission are now working together to launch a major public-facing campaign for a malaria-free Africa at the forthcoming African Union Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania in July. In its new expanded phase, the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign will reignite grassroot movements in which individuals, families, communities, religious leaders, private sector, political leaders, and other members of the community pledge to take responsibility in the fight against malaria.

This pan-African initiative to defeat malaria befits with the African Union reform agenda of popular movement and civic engagement to deal with the continent’s key issues. Through this campaign, while providing a unique opportunity to engage communities from the grassroots level up to the Heads of State, we hope to generate renewed commitments for the fight against malaria, such as increasing domestic resources, multisectoral interventions, and robust involvement of the private sector.

Promoting regional cooperation: Regional cooperation is key to defeating malaria and is therefore at the heart of the Partnership’s strategy for 2018-2020. Several sub-regions across the world have stepped up their cross-border collaborative efforts towards malaria elimination – the Greater Mekong sub region, E8 nations in southern Africa and Mesoamerica malaria elimination financing initiative are notable examples. At their meeting in Monaco last year, eight west African countries — Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger Senegal and The Gambia — have agreed to accelerate malaria elimination in the Sahel region, and we are now working with WHO and other partners to roll out this initiative in 2018.

China’s support to malaria endemic countries: The People’s Republic of China is a strategic development and the largest trading partner to malaria affected countries. It is stepping up its effort of mutual economic development to an unprecedented level. The RBM Partnership has established a China-RBM steering committee by drawing senior leaders from relevant Chinese institutions, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and WHO. The aim of this collaboration is to leverage China’s investment and better align its bilateral aid to meet national malaria programme needs – contributing everything from innovation, to provision of quality-assured commodities and building capacity in surveillance and operations. A scoping mission to four African countries will be conducted in April and will hopefully be followed by a demonstration project. The steering committee is also tasked to organise a high-level malaria summit in 2019.

2018 also marks 20 years since the launch of the original RBM Partnership. It is therefore an opportunity to not only celebrate two decades of collective action by more than 500 RBM Partners, but also look ahead at the next 20 years which I hope will bring us closer to realising our shared vision of a malaria-free world.

I look forward to hearing from and engaging with many of you in the year ahead and thank you again for your continued support to the RBM Partnership.

Child holding malaria kills poster

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