By Rear Adm. (ret) Tim Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator

Prominent leaders in global health and development joined several African heads of state yesterday to announce new commitments to accelerate progress toward ending deaths from malaria, a disease that claims the lives of more than 850,000 Africans each year.

Participants included: Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda of Tanzania; Minister of Information Ibrahim Kargvo representing President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; Andrew Mitchell from the UK representing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg; Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization; Robert B. Zoellick, President, the World Bank Group; Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; Ray Chambers, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria; and Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, special advisor for health policy at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

I had the honor to attend and read a letter from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to participants and members of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). In her letter, she wrote … “African Heads of State have stood at the forefront of promoting malaria control for more than a decade.  I commend members of ALMA for leading by example. You are on the leading edge of health in development, in your countries and across the world.  It is vital that you share your experiences with the entire global health community.  Working together we will achieve better health outcomes and sustain those gains for many years to come.

“My sincere thanks also go to the U.N. Special Envoy Ray Chambers who has worked tirelessly to assist African countries to reach universal coverage of insecticide-treated nets by December 2010; and our close friend, ally and partner — the United Kingdom. Most importantly, I want to recognize the doctors, nurses, health workers, female volunteers and others who work each day to end this scourge. Together, you have saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the past few years and made a vital difference in our fight for once and for all to end malaria as a major global health threat.”

Leaders of all sub-Saharan African nations are working to bridge critical gaps in access to mosquito nets, Indoor Residual Spraying, and medicines to reach UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s goal of providing life-saving malaria control interventions to the 700 million people at risk of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2010.

Malaria prevention and control is a major foreign assistance objective and a core element of the U.S. Global Health Initiative, which focuses on improving the health of women, newborns and children.  Particularly in the high-burden malaria countries in Africa, where women and young children bear the greatest burden of the disease, malaria control is central to our collective efforts to reach the MDGs.

“Endemic countries and donor governments have demonstrated that rapid and steady progress against malaria is possible, and we must keep going to achieve the objectives of zero preventable malaria deaths and eradication,” said Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This will be possible only by sustaining existing efforts and committing to develop and introduce new tools, including a safe and effective malaria vaccine, new drugs and vector control tools.”

Speaking on behalf of His Excellency President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda of the United Republic of Tanzania called for global support to help Africa achieve the Abuja targets and the UN Secretary-General’s targets. I’m confident that by working together the global community is on track to reduce malaria deaths to near zero by 2015.