WASHINGTON, October 7, 2010—Sub-Saharan Africa has made much progress against malaria in recent years, but this preventable and treatable disease still kills about 850,000 people in the region each year. Victory against malaria requires sustained funding, expanded prevention, stronger national and regional health systems, and continued research.
The World Bank’s role in assisting African governments to fight malaria has included financing over 45 million bed nets in highly malarial countries such as Zambia, Benin, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and eight million doses of drugs to treat the disease.
The Bank also helps strengthen health systems and build capacity for better results in the fight against various communicable diseases. All too often, disease control efforts have been impeded by systemic weaknesses such as inadequate human resources or weak supply chains.
IDA at work against malaria
The World Bank’s Malaria Booster Program—largely funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s grant and soft loan arm that is due for replenishment—is a good example of IDA at work as it helps African countries make much-needed investments in human capital.
Eighteen countries in Africa already have Malaria Booster projects. With US$200 million announced by the Bank in April 2010, seven of them—the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zambia—are on track to receive additional financing for malaria, largely to help reach the universal coverage target for bed nets set by the United Nations.
While funding for malaria has risen in the past decade, more investment is needed to consolidate gains. As the financial crisis abates, the World Bank will continue to encourage countries to use replenished IDA funds for anti-malaria efforts. The Bank will also try to bring new partners on board to leverage IDA resources, as it did with Russia, which has complemented IDA funds for malaria with $16 million more for Mozambique and Zambia.
“With commitments of about $762 million since 2005, we have catalyzed further investment by other donors; responded to country needs flexibly; and collaborated closely with global partners,” said Eva Jarawan, Manager of the World Bank Africa Region’s Health, Nutrition and Population unit. “This has gone a long way towards coordinated international funding for malaria and a strong focus on results.”
Strong results across Africa
The Bank’s direct assistance to countries has contributed to strong results across Africa. For example, in Ethiopia, household bed net ownership has risen from just five percent in 2006 to over 90 percent of households today, and data suggest a sharp decline in malaria cases and deaths.
An example of the Bank’s health system strengthening work is a pilot study in Zambia (together with other partners), which shows that simple improvements to the country’s supply chain for lifesaving drugs could significantly reduce Zambia’s child mortality from malaria between 2010 and 2015.