ALMA – long time no see

Since African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) was formed nearly two years ago, we hear only occasionally about its efforts to rally political will.  The last major news came in August 2010 at the 15th African Union Summit when leaders pledged a commitment to malaria in the context of maternal and child health. ALMA still maintains a website and a blog with recent and occastional postings, but generally its activities have been somewhat off the radar of the major media outlets.

Now during the during the 16th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa ALMA has resurfaced in public view. The occasion was award of recognition to four heads of state for their support of malaria programs. Recipients of the 2011 ALMA Award for Excellence are the heads of state of Guinea, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Although currently comprised of only 35 heads of states, ALMA notes as progress that, “Of the 45 malaria-endemic countries in Africa, 62% have removed tariffs on anti-malarial medicines, 42% have removed tariffs on LLINs, and 31 countries have taken measures to curtail the use of oral artemisinin-based monotherapies,” as reported by the Malaria Policy Center.

In addressing the Group, the UN Secretary General praised them for working toward the goal of Universal Coverage, He explained that, “The African Leaders Malaria Alliance is breaking down barriers, forging partnerships and getting supplies to families in record time. This is remarkable progress. We need to encourage it and use the response to malaria as a model for battling other illnesses and social ills.”

This is a challenging time for leadership in the fight against malaria. Not all heads of state have been watching the store as it were, since several Global Fund grants have been suspended on their watch due to corruption, often by government agencies serving as grant recipients.  Uganda, one of the four awardees of this year’s ALMA Excellence Awards, has had its own brush with the Global Fund.

Kenya was one of the countries covered in a 2008 study by the Global Fund of conflict of interest within its Country Coordinating Mechanism. Kenya was also singled out in an Office of the Inspector General Report to the 21st GFATM Board Meeting as one of the countries that had implemented less than half of the recommendations arising from its audit.

The East African Magazine recently published an African Presidents’ Index that ranken leaders on such factors as press freedom, corruption, democracy and human development. The ALMA award recipients ranked as follows out of 52:

  • Guinea – 29th at 42% score and a grade of F 
  • Kenya – 16th at 53% and a grade of C
  • Uganda – 20th at 50% and a grade of D+
  • Tanzania – 10th at 60% and a grade of B-

Hopefully the recognition by ALMA for malaria achievements will have an overall positive effect on leadership and political will in all areas of governance and human development.  Progress on one issue (health) and one disease (malaria) alone can not have a long lasting effect on defeating poverty and enhancing dignity of life in Africa.

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