When I was President of Tanzania, I remember visiting a district where 70 percent of the children were absent from school. They told me the problem was malaria. I sent my minister of health to investigate, and he confirmed it was true: a majority of children were missing school and falling behind because they had malaria. That was a wake-up call for all of us.
To fight malaria in that district and across the country, we focused on three key interventions: indoor residual spraying, bed nets treated with insecticide and effective therapies. With help and partnership from countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we were able to significantly reduce malaria in Tanzania.
What worked in that district worked throughout Tanzania and across Africa, which bears about 90 percent of the global burden of malaria. Strong leadership and partnerships have led to a stunning decline in malaria cases and deaths. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen by 66 percent on the continent overall and by 71 percent among African children under 5.
It was hard to imagine a decade ago, but elimination on the continent is now within reach. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance is a coalition of 49 heads of state who have committed to fighting malaria together, using quarterly scorecards to track progress and address challenges in their countries. In July, the African Union is set to endorse a roadmap for elimination by 2030.
Eliminating malaria on the African continent is no longer an impossible dream. It will take strong and focused leadership, but I believe we can be the generation that makes history and frees Africa from malaria once and for all.
Jakaya Kikwete is the former president of the United Republic of Tanzania.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Malaria No More, in conjunction with World Malaria Day. To see all the posts in the series, please visit here. To learn more about Malaria No More, please visit here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WorldMalariaDay.