World Malaria Day (WMD) is an international observance commemorated every year on 25 April and recognizes global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria.In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children.Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected.
World Malaria Day sprung out of the efforts taking place across the African continent to commemorate Africa Malaria Day. WMD is one of eight official global public health campaigns currently marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Hepatitis Day and World AIDS Day.
World Malaria Day was established in May 2007 by the 60th session of the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body. The day was established to provide “education and understanding of malaria” and spread information on “year-long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in endemic areas.”
Prior to the establishment of WMD, Africa Malaria Day was held on April 25. Africa Malaria Day began in 2001, one year after the historic Abuja Declaration was signed by 44 malaria-endemic countries at the African Summit on Malaria.
World Malaria Day allows for corporations (such as ExxonMobil), multinational organizations (such as Malaria No More) and grassroots organizations (such as Mosquitoes Suck Tour) globally to work together to bring awareness to malaria and advocate for policy changes.
Leading to World Malaria Day 2014, the European Vaccine Initiative announced sixteen new projects for the acceleration of malaria vaccine development. The projects were to be undertaken by an international consortium involving partners from the public and private sectors from Europe, USA and Africa.
Events marking World Malaria Day 2014 in Nigeria included a demonstration of anti-malarial bed nets, testing and distribution of anti-malarial drugs, seminars on progress in combating and controlling malaria, and the inclusion of African footballers in the campaign to combat malaria.
April 25 was designated as Malaria Awareness Day in 2007 by President George W. Bush, who called on Americans to join in on the goal to eradicate malaria on the African continent. President Bush described it as a day when “we focus our attention on all who suffer from this terrible disease — especially the millions on the continent of Africa. We remember the millions more who died from this entirely preventable and treatable disease.” President Bush shared the White House’s strategic plan against malaria, which included endeavors to distribute bed nets with the New York-based nonprofit group Malaria No More.
Other former U.S. Presidents are involved in anti-malaria efforts. Former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation includes an anti-malaria component that, according to director Inder Singh has distributed anti-malaria drugs to millions in Africa and Asia.
Many prominent companies, organizations, and celebrities have declared initiatives to join the fight against malaria to mark this day. These include a $3 million “challenge grant” announced by ExxonMobil to match donations dollar by dollar to Malaria No More, as part of the “Idol Gives Back” episodes of American Idol, which was aired on Malaria Awareness Day. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber also announced that the league would promote malaria awareness and bed net fundraising promotions in the month of April leading up to Malaria Awareness Day.
Actress Ashley Judd, announced the April launch of a new initiative called “5 & Alive,” which will focus on the devastating effects of malaria on children under 5. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America announced their own national campaign called “Malaria Prevention: Deadly Disease. Simple Solution”, which will partner with Malaria No More to approach all 4.7 Million Club members worldwide to ask for $10 bed net donations.
The movement is not without its critics, such as the African economist Dambisa Moyo who warns that the short term benefits of aid such as mosquito nets can have long term detrimental effects to the sustainability of African economies. When the markets are flooded with foreign nets then this puts African entrepreneurs out of business.