Hannah Koenker has put together the following update on progress made in the four country-based programs of VOICES for a Malaria Free Future. Hopefully this will encourage other countries to strengthen their advocacy efforts.
Ghana has mobilized leadership in government and civil society to form the National Voices Team, whose advocacy strategy has been accepted by NMCP and its partners as the national malaria advocacy strategy. As remarked by the Program Manager “Advocacy has received very little attention in our malaria control activities; Voices has come to fill the gap.â€ A number of malaria Champions have been recruited, including government and traditional chiefs. Two monthly Action Alerts have been published, and are seen by the NMCP as a great tool to keep the leadership awake on malaria control issues and to motivate sustained effort. Last but not least, the District Malaria Advocacy System is starting up. The key issues Ghana continues to grapple with are
- Slow implementation of the new malaria drug policy – the use of the A+Aq. Lack of confidence in the drug due to earlier problems during introduction
- Failure of the District Assemblies to program the 1% Common Fund for malaria control activities. (We know that at least from our 2 districts.)
Mali has organized a series of â€œWar Roomâ€ meetings with the NMCP and its partners to discuss ITN distribution, household and community barriers to accessing treatment, and the introduction of ACTs for pregnant women and children under five. They have met with a variety of partners, including PSI, UNICEF, Peace Corps Volunteers, PMI, the National Pharmacy, the Koulikoro Regional Health Office, and the Global Fund. The team has also met with several private sector partners to plan employee net distributions. Most notably they have successfully advocated for the renewal of the presidential exoneration of taxes and tariffs on ITNs and insecticides for net treatment, and have written several newspaper articles about their efforts. For Africa Malaria Day, which in Mali is being celebrated throughout the month of April, VOICES produced four 3-minute skits with the director and actors from the popular Malian soap opera â€œDâ€™ou la familleâ€, touching on messages like prompt treatment, the role of fathers in treatment-seeking, myths about malaria and mosquitoes, and the importance of ITNs and ACTs. Several Malian musicians have been recruited as malaria champions, and activities are being planned for the near future.
Challenges have been to carry out activities in the workplan while responding to the PMI teamâ€™s request for information and help during their visits. In addition, while the government is promising free ACTs and ITNs to pregnant women and children under five, there are not yet enough drugs and nets in-country to meet demand.
Mozambique continues to update their Resource Center and has scheduled a calendar of malaria talks. Theyâ€™ve helped the NMCP create a multi-sectorial committee for malaria activities and are serving as the secretariat, as well as helping to set up a database that will map malaria activities. Their advocacy strategy and workplan are finalized and the M&E plan is being finalized, with input from stakeholders. Voices also facilitated the trip of one MozambicanÂ journalistÂ to participate in the presentation of the UK All Party Parliamentary Malaria Group report (â€œFinancing Mechanisms for Malariaâ€) and Yvonne Chaka Chakaâ€™s Princess of Africa Foundation launch. With coalition members Voices will tackle the issue of community health workers (CHW), to improve access to malaria prevention and treatment services, and will contribute to the First Ladyâ€™s campaign, â€œMalaria Free Childrenâ€.
Kenaam has conducted a two-dayÂ advocacy training for KeNAAM members after which a task force was established to develop the Kenya VOICES advocacy strategy. Additional task forces will take on the role of identifying champions, and gathering information on the malaria situation in Kenya.Â They have successfully managed the constituency election process so that more malaria CSOs have a voice on the GFATM CCM, and continue advocating for release of funds to NGO implementers. Kenaamâ€™s new communications officer has developed a Kenya work plan that includes activities such as training, outreach to new partners and voices, and documentation of activities. She has also developed a media database and the team is planning a media training targeted for journalists from regions where malaria is particularly bad. A database of Members of Parliament from malarious areas was also created, and contacts have been made so that malaria can be made part of the Parliamentary Health Committee agenda. Partnerships were developed with the Boy Scouts, several youth groups, and the Ministry of Education to train new youth voices in malaria advocacy, and to work with Pfizerâ€™s school health program to include malaria messages in teaching curriculums. A notable recruit was the Kenyan UN Youth Ambassador, who has the potential to be an advocate at global level. Success and advocacy stories are in development, including the Kilifi â€œTalking Netsâ€ story, and will be featured on the CORE website, later on the KeNAAM site, and linked to the VOICES Homepage. Kenaamâ€™s draft advocacy strategy includes plans for M&E and sets out Kenyaâ€™s main challenges,
- the low priority of malaria within the government
- the need for more resources to be included in the GOK budget
- the need for the flow of resources to be less restrictive (GFATM for example and how CSO still have not received Round 2 funds)
- the need for ACTs to be made available at a reduced cost in the private sector (roll out of the new policy is only happening in public hospitals and clinics, but most people access drugs from shops).