Wednesday, April 24, 2024

National Health Research Institute, Luanda, Angola


ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Good afternoon everybody. It's great – a privilege to be here with Deputy Secretary [Richard] Verma on the eve of World Malaria Day at a lab that is doing so much to test mosquitoes here in Angola and to determine the best forms of prevention for vulnerabilities. 

It was only several years ago when Angola lacked the equipment and the trained personnel to test mosquitoes to identify the sources – the very specific sources – of malaria. 

Last year, for the first time, Angolan scientists and lab technicians were able to extract and test the DNA of mosquitoes so as to identify specifically which species were causing malaria, and most importantly, to develop treatments and insecticides to respond to those specific threats.

And this is just one example of what we call PMI, the President's Malaria Initiative, how it has responded to the evolving threat from malaria innovating year in, year out to support efforts to protect Angolans.

I’ll just give you one example of the impact of PMIs investment in Angola. In Zaire province – even with health systems under strain from COVID, malaria deaths in Zaire have been cut nearly in half from 2020 to 2023. And now we are to the point where 99 percent of suspected malaria cases in Zaire province are being tested, which is twice the rate in the rest of Angola. And as a result of this incredible success, and the determination of frontline health workers, and communities to mobilize in Zaire, today, I am pleased to announce that that the request of the Angolan Ministry of Health, we are glad to hand off a significant portion of PMIs work in Zaire to the Angolan government, which will sustain, and I'm sure over time, deepen. 

And critically, at the request again of the Angolan Ministry of Health, we are expanding our work by allocating resources to another province, where we know that urgently PMIs interventions are needed. In Moxico, which as you all know encompasses the Lobito Corridor and borders Zambia and the DRC, you see the highest malaria prevalence in the country. And the most recent data is very, very striking. It shows that 40 percent of children under five are now testing positive for malaria in Moxico.

So here on the eve of World Malaria Day, we resolve with our partners in the Ministry of Health to expand the training of health workers to provide greater access to malaria tests, to bed nets, to treatments, and to strengthen the ability of people in Moxico to monitor and to test the mosquitoes who are carrying the virus. We hope that this will be a critical inflection point in the fight against malaria in Moxico, and it builds on more than 25 years of American investments here in the health sector in Angola.

Even though Moxico is rural and many parts – many communities are hard to access – we believe that Angolans are well positioned to take the lessons learned in fighting malaria in Zaire and other provinces to make a significant difference for the people of Moxico. And that is what is so exciting and inspiring about the partnership between the American people and the Angolan people. And that is as we work more closely together, as a partnership between our two countries expands and deepens, together we can make a real difference in communities here in Angola.

Thank you so much. And in a minute, I look forward to your questions.

DEPUTY SECRETARY RICHARD VERMA: Thank you Administrator [Power], thank you Secretary [Pinto de Sousa], thank you. Ambassador [Tulinabo Mushingi], thank you. This is my first visit to Angola and I'm delighted to be here and send my personal greetings on behalf of the Secretary of State [Blinken] as well. 

This is such an important area of cooperation between our two countries. Health security – eradicating certain diseases and combating malaria. And as the Deputy Secretary in charge of resources, I want to assure you that we will continue to invest in this area in the years ahead.

Since 2006, we've invested hundreds of millions of dollars here to combat malaria. And as we see today in this incredible lab, we've made good progress. We've made good progress on testing, on diagnosis, and on treatment. And our work will continue, the research will continue, the science and discovery will continue so that we can come here one day to see a day where we eradicate this illness and eliminate malaria here in Angola – that is our goal and that is what we are all working towards.

Thank you.

QUESTION (via translation): I would like to ask our partners from USAID what they are doing to eradicate malaria?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much. Well, let me first say that in 2024, the year we are in, no child, anywhere on earth should die of a mosquito bite. We have the tools to prevent it – globally, we have the tools to treat. We have an increasing ability to get lab diagnostic testing out to even the most remote parts of the world. So, I think what we have here, in Angola, is a path to eradication. 

And I will say a lot of countries lost ground in fighting malaria during the once in a century COVID pandemic. But since 2020, in the parts of Angola where the PMI program, or President's Malaria Initiative, has worked, we have seen malaria deaths go down by 29 percent. We have provided nearly 45 million anti-malaria treatments, 43 million rapid diagnostic tests, and around 90 million bed nets that have been treated with insecticide. We are, through PMI, reaching about 20 percent of the Angolan population. What is very exciting about our announcement today, and our partnership with the Ministry of Health is, that this is an example about how we can accelerate progress. As the State Secretary said, we know how to fight malaria.

So now for example, the Ministry of Health will take over malaria prevention and treatment in Zaire province, and PMI and USAID will surge training, test kits, anti-malarial medicine, bed nets, in Moxico, which has the highest prevalence in Angola. And that is the way that we will support Angolans in tackling this terrible parasite, this terrible disease.

QUESTION (via translation)You said that there is action on the number of deaths. How much decline do we see because we still see a lot. And for Ms. Administrator, are you happy with the results and reports on malaria and do you think Angola is achieving the results you aim for?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I would only reinforce the point that the Secretary of State made about climate change as a very significant exacerbator of the problem of malaria. And why we, at USAID, make investments across sectors. Health, yes, $415 million invested on combating malaria here since 2016. But also facilitating the transition to clean energy to lower emissions and supporting farmers and communities deal with droughts and floods and extreme weather. So, we have to work across many, many sectors to improve health and life expectancy in Angola.

And I think the question was whether we are satisfied with the partnership with the Ministry of Health. I think we are very satisfied with the collaboration. I think it is fair to say that neither USAID nor the Ministry of Health are satisfied with the fact that malaria is still killing people. But that is not for lack of political will. It is out of the need to be able to get bed nets, medicines, soon vaccines, and awareness and training to the deepest, most remote reaches of this country. 

And we think that this partnership is going to help us make very significant progress against this.

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