According to RBM’s website, “To provide a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership was launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The RBM Partnership has expanded exponentially since its launch and is now made up of a wide range of partners â€” including malaria-endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions â€” who bring a formidable assembly of expertise, infrastructure and funds into the fight against the disease.”
Randall Packard in his new book, “The Making of a Tropical Disease: a short history of malaria.” He described the conditions that led to the founding of RBM which included a resurgence of the disease after failed efforts at eradication, declining efficacy of drugs and pesticides, program policy and management failures, collapsing health systems, and global debt burden among others. Clearly the RBM Partnership had a huge task ahead of itself.
One of the very first RBM activities was to provide technical assistance to endemic countries to conduct needs assessments which in turn could form the basis of plans and proposals to raise fund to implement control activities. The Partnership then would help link the countries with donors to support these plans and thus achieve one of the main objectives of RBM, “the scaling up of interventions at country level to ensure wide spread coverage, particularly to population groups most vulnerable.” The ability of countries to do this has been greatly enhanced when organizations like the Global Fund became part of the partnership, giving countries the means to achieve scale up.
The results of adding financial partners into the mix of technical and national partners has been, according to the Executive Director of the Global Fund, Michel Kazatchkine, reduction in malaria deaths in Zamzibar, Eritrea, Kenya and Zambia. The RBM Partnership has continued to mobilize technical assistance in developing proposals and helped achieve major funding increases for malaria grants from the Global Fund. According to the Global Fund Observer, ” In Round 7, an unusually high 62% of malaria proposals were approved, up from 32% in Round 6.”
The VOA reported that Dr Kazatchkine “warns against complacency. He says more than one million people still die each year from malaria. He notes many areas in Africa such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo do not have access to bed nets.” RBM is not being complacent, but is planning updated country assessments and additional assistance for strengthening GFATM Round 8 proposals.
RBM is unique in that its “strength lies in its ability to form effective partnerships both globally and nationally.” While involvement of international donor, non-governmental organization and private sector partners are crucial, it is the national partners who hold the key to success and sustainability. Hopefully we will see in the coming months more documentation of RBM’s 10 years of success.