I visited the largest malaria conference on the African continent. More than 2.000 malaria professionals gathered in Dakar for the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference. Every day started with a plenary session presented by 2 keynote speakers: 12 keynote addresses by 12 renowned scientists. But... only 2 were African.
From Monday to Friday there were 8 simultaneous scientific sessions and symposia.
I visited many symposia and talked to a wide variety of people. The following 3 discussions got my particular attention:
- “African nations and scientists should own the African malaria eradication agenda.”
- “Community participation: what do we exactly mean? Who involves communities when it comes to decision-making?”
- “We have the tools, we have the knowledge. Now let’s get on with it.”
After all this I was puzzled...
I am at an African conference being held on the African continent and addressing one of the major African health challenges. I see only two African keynotes speakers and we are addressing exactly the same three points as 20 years ago when the first MIM conference was held in the very same Dakar.
But I have hope. Hope that at the next MIM conference things will have changed and that:
- the global malaria community respects that nations, anywhere in the world, should take the responsibility to decide how and when malaria control challenges in their own countries need to be addressed;
- there is general respect for malaria control implementers and community workers; for the people ‘who have to go out and do it'.
- a serious start has been made with an integrated set of existing malaria control- and elimination tools while embracing new tools that are being developed and can be incorporated along the way. Why wait if we can start tomorrow?
Just imagine… What would happen if we would set up the MIO, the Multilateral Initiative for Obesitas in America. Obesitas in the US is costing the continent so much more than malaria is costing Africa, so it is time that Africans engage big time in the fight against obesitas in the USA. And during its first conference in Washington DC there would be 12 keynote addresses of which 10 would be given by Africans…
And in the middle of the MIO congress we will organise an obesitas summit in Dar es Salaam. Get the point?
Enough food for thought…
Curious to know what do you think!