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Malaria, human rights and gender equality

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Malaria, human rights and gender equality

Key populations are at higher risk of malaria

The concept of key populations in the malaria response is relatively new and less well defined, but those that fall within the definition include:

  • Asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants, and
  • Indigenous populations in malaria-endemic areas.

Populations most affected by malaria are also those that are often disproportionately affected by poverty, social inequality and political marginalization. Evidence shows that protecting and promoting the rights of affected populations reduces malaria-related morbidity and mortality.

Poverty, marginalization and lack of access to basic resources impacts on vulnerability to malaria

However, in most of Africa, where malaria is a leading cause of death, the marginalized status of populations such as pregnant women and children, migrants, refugees, prisoners, rural populations and indigenous populations, means that these populations often lack basic resources – such as safe and secure housing, water and sanitation - to promote their health and wellbeing. Their socio-economic and political status also impacts on their ability to access health information and services, afford preventive insecticide-treated bed nets and malaria treatment and protect their rights to testing and treatment including voluntary and informed consent.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership is a global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Initially started as a partnership with WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and World Bank, the partnership now consists of hundreds of partners.

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The partnership provides global strategy through Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria 2016-2030 (AIM) which outlines strategic approaches to building the investment in malaria, promoting an inclusive approach, creating supportive elements such as strengthening the enabling environment, and ensuring progress and accountability.

WHO’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 complements the global strategy and outlines a strategic framework with a focus on universal access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, transforming and improving surveillance efforts, harnessing innovation, strengthening the enabling environment through stronger health systems and promoting inventions that act as an entry point to maternal and child health programmes, among other initiatives.

Other key documents, such as the Strategic Framework for Malaria Communication at the Country Level and the Multisectoral Action Framework for Malaria also developed through the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, provide programmatic guidance. The Action Framework analyses the social and environmental determinants of malaria at societal, environmental, population group, household and level and advocates for financing for:

  • Conventional malaria interventions such as long-lasting insecticidal bednets, indoor residual spray and diagnostics and treatments
  • Addressing the determinants of malaria within health and non-health sectors, and
  • Malaria interventions at the household and individual level such as housing improvements and malaria-smart practices in the household.

The Global Fund Working Group on Malaria sets out programmatic responses to malaria, human rights and gender equality

In 2016, a group of experts convened by the Global Fund for the first time defined concrete programmes and approaches to reducing human rights and gender-related barriers to malaria services, as outlined in the Malaria, Gender and Human Rights Technical Brief. It notes that human rights and gender assessments of malaria-related risks and vulnerabilities should be undertaken, meaningful participation of affected populations should be ensured and access to malaria services for refugees and others affected by emergencies improved.