Reaching The Last Mile: How Considering Gender is Key for Malaria Elimination
Women working together in Honaira. Photo: Jeremy Miler, AusAID
World Malaria Day 2022
Every April 25th, we celebrate World Malaria Day to look back on the impressive progress we have made in fighting this ancient disease. Malaria cases in Asia Pacific have declined by 50% in just the past ten years. Still, we recognize the billions of people globally who are still at risk. As we approach the last mile of malaria elimination in Asia Pacific, we are increasingly aware that innovating inclusive approaches for hard-to-reach people and communities is needed.
Gender is one consideration necessary to discover new innovations and to reach target populations. The cultural, social, and physiological differences between genders are important in designing inclusive and tailored approaches to specific groups. In many rural areas Asia Pacific, men generally face higher exposure to malaria due to migrant work in forests and fields where malaria-carrying mosquitos can be found. But there are risks for women too with outdoor work and activities such as cooking, collecting water and fuel. In addition, women who contract malaria may face higher risks from the disease due to barriers in accessing treatment or reduced immunity while pregnant. Understanding differences in gender-based risks is critical to effective programming that ensures equity and that no one is left behind.
Broad-stroke policies are less effective in finishing the last mile. A new paper published by The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific titled, “Building a gender responsive framework for malaria elimination in Asia-Pacific” further shows how applying a gender lens can improve outcomes. The paper specifically lists three actions to apply a gender framework to strengthen impact:
- Collect and publish sex and age disaggregated data to design more inclusive malaria programmes and policies
- Bridge different health programs using interdisciplinary approaches
- Strengthen gender diversity and representation in leadership and decision-making roles
As stressed in the paper, we must better understand at-risk people in our malaria elimination efforts. Asia Pacific must adopt gender frameworks in its malaria elimination strategies to build inclusivity, tailor solutions to the most at-risk, improve health service delivery, and also progress towards meeting SGD 5 on gender equality.
This World Malaria Day let’s focus on gender within malaria programming to address potential biases and provide equitable healthcare access to all.
This paper was created in partnership with experts from the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, National University of Singapore and Tokyo University, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.