TANZANIA is this year set to become one of the first African countries to achieve universal access to mosquito nets and affordable treatment for all of its citizens as it struggles to fight malaria, a disease ravaging societies worldwide.
The country, arguably one of the leaders in the global fight against malaria, recently introduced an anti malaria campaign - Malaria Haikubaliki - which involves all sectors of the society including entertainment, business, sport and religion sectors in the battle against malaria across the country.
In support of this landmark effort, President Jakaya Kikwete, who is also the head of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) which brings African leaders together on the world stage to raise global awareness and support, will lead the “Malaria Haikubaliki: Tushirikiane Kuitokomeza” (Malaria is unacceptable: Working together, we can eliminate malaria) awareness campaign.
In spearheading the campaign, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare joined hands with prominent Tanzanian musicians, international partners, senior government officials and the business sector to stage the Zinduka! (“Wake Up!”) Concert scheduled to take place on February 13, this year at the Leaders’ Club in Dar es Salaam.
The concert, to be broadcast on various television and radio stations throughout the country, will rally a call-to-action to Tanzanians for the malaria fight.
The campaign, under the auspices of President Kikwete and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, targets every Tanzanian community in a view to change the way individuals think about malaria.
The objective of the effort is to increase practices to prevent malaria such as consistently sleeping under an insecticide treated mosquito net, detecting and treating malaria early; and ensuring antenatal care for pregnant women.
“Africans think that malaria is inevitable; that there is nothing they can do about it. We are going to prove this wrong. We can eliminate malaria deaths,” said the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Prof. David Mwakyusa.
Adding: “Along with the president I hope every Tanzanian will join together to declare that malaria is unacceptable in our country in 2010.”
To kick off the 2010 activities, Kikwete is expected to grace the Zinduka! Concert that will feature Tanzania’s top performers including campaign spokesperson Judith Wambura alias Lady Jay Dee, Joseph Haule alias Professor Jay and artistes from the Tanzania House of Talent (THT).
Other performers will include vocalist Banana Zoro, Martin Lawrence (Marlaw) and Zanzibar’s legendary vocalist Fatuma Binti Baraka alias Bi. Kidude.
Through television and radio, the event will reach millions of Tanzanians with a message of personal responsibility for malaria control. In addition, Tanzanian popular artistes have composed and released an original song about malaria featuring 18 musicians, the biggest collaboration on a song ever made in Tanzania so far.
“Music has an incredible power to tell the story of Tanzania’s fight against malaria and our ultimate success against the disease,” said Lady Jay Dee, noting further that: “At the Zinduka! Concert, Tanzania will be able to raise her voice in songs to call for the end of malaria in our country.”
The national campaign is anchored at the community and household level by community mobilization activities implemented by Population Services International (PSI) and Johns Hopkins University and district advocacy activities led by Voices II.
At the same time, Tanzania Red Cross is conducting Hang Up and Keep Up campaigns across the country. From the faith community, Malaria Haikubaliki is joined by the Christian Social Services Commission and Bakwata (the National Muslim Council) to engage faith leaders and their congregations in the effort to combat malaria nationwide.
Speaking at the event to announce the campaign, former American ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green noted: “Malaria is a terrible disease that causes widespread suffering and even death. But it is also preventable and treatable and the government of Tanzania has emerged as a true leader in Africa’s fight against the disease”.
However, the government cannot do this alone. Every Tanzanian must join in the country’s fight to end malaria deaths. Only by working together will Tanzania be able to rid its homes, communities and country of malaria”.
The former American envoy said he was so inspired by Tanzania’s commitment to ending malaria deaths that he chose to devote himself to fight the disease after leaving the US embassy last year.
“I moved to Washington DC to lead the Malaria Policy Center, which encourages governments around the world to support malaria control programmes in Africa,” stated Green.
On his part, Malaria No More’s Peter Chernin said malaria’s most frequent victims are those ‘without a voice’ including young children in remote villages.
He remarked: “Tanzania is ready to give those children a voice by bringing together some of the most influential figures in Tanzanian society. Every person can use his or her voice to help tell Tanzania’s success story against malaria. Entertainers can engage their audiences; corporations can leverage their best practices to support the effort; and faith leaders can involve their congregations in refusing to accept a single malaria death”.
In Africa, malaria affects not only people’s lives, but their livelihood. Malaria causes up to 15 missed work days per person per year and families can spend up to 25 per cent of their household income on malaria across the continent.
Malaria is also an obstacle to development, costing Africa an estimated $12bn every year in lost productivity and swallowing up 40 per cent of health expenditures. By defeating the disease, Tanzania can show that Africa can relieve itself of the malaria burden and spur progress within and beyond its borders.
The Malaria Haikubaliki: Tushirikiane Kuitokomeza awareness campaign is led by the Tanzanian government under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Additional malaria campaign partners include the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Malaria No More, Population Services International and Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, Tanzania Red Cross, United Against Malaria, MEDA and World Vision with support from the Global Fund to the Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as the United States President’s Malaria Initiative.