Switzerland – Since its institution by WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly in 2007, World Malaria Day (WMD) has been celebrated on April 25th each year with events aimed at highlighting the continued need for political support for and investment in the control, prevention and elimination of the disease.
As the Millennium Development Goals are set to expire and the post-2015 development agenda under discussion, this year’s WMD theme: Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria is more important than ever before.
IOM wants a future without malaria, but this goal cannot be accomplished without more funding for programming and research that improves access to malaria prevention and treatment for migrants, mobile and cross-border populations – a highly vulnerable, often invisible, hard-to-reach and neglected group.
The numbers are daunting. In 2010 alone, there were more than 215 million reported cases and over 650,000 deaths caused by malaria. Many occurred among the world’s estimated 215 million international and 740 million internal migrants.
Rising human mobility is resulting in thousands of people entering and leaving malaria endemic and non-endemic areas daily. It is therefore crucial to provide prevention and treatment to entire communities, regardless of their origin or legal migration status, to avoid the reintroduction and reinvasion of the disease through imported cases.
Migrants, especially those who are undocumented or enter a country through irregular routes, face multiple obstacles in accessing essential healthcare, including malaria prevention, screening and treatment. They often fall outside traditional control strategies and plans of action, resulting in undetected and untreated infections that are often caught too late.
Many IOM migrant health projects shed light on the health disparities suffered by migrants and mobile populations at the margins of society. All of them seek to put into action the inclusive recommendations set forth in the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants (61.17).
While IOM’s involvement in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa is highlighted below, IOM health promotion projects emphasizing malaria control are active around the world.
Since the mid-2000s, IOM’s work in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong Subregion and in some Southern Africa countries have focused on strengthening and increasing expansion of national malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment programmes for migrants working in rubber plantations and gold mines, and host communities in remote forest settings.
Many of the activities focus on artemisinin resistance containment via distribution of long-lasting insecticide-impregnated nets, implementation of increased disease surveillance and constant access to malaria testing and treatment in the workplace.
To coincide with this year’s WMD, IOM South Africa health experts will be in Mozambique to promote the roll out of a malaria bond program, recently established by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. This scheme will create an alternative funding mechanism centered on the private sector to support malaria control.
An IOM survey designed to identify health vulnerabilities in migration flows from East to South Africa is also in its second phase. The study includes questions on malaria incidence and will strengthen our understanding of the links between malaria and population mobility.
“IOM believes in shared partnerships and shared goals with governments, WHO and key partners including migrant communities to ensure that migrants, their families and host communities benefit from integrated and inclusive “continuity of health care” approaches, including access to malaria prevention, early diagnosis and treatment throughout the migration process – before, during and after their return home,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
“We will continue to raise the health of migrants through the implementation of the World Health Assembly resolution at country level, and the role of migration health in the context of sustainable development in national, regional and international fora, including the upcoming High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the post-2015 Development Agenda discussions,” he added.
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