By Sharon Atieno

The African Union (AU) Commission has launched the first continental conversation guide on malaria for youth in Africa‎.

The launch happened during a virtual event hosted by the AIDS Watch Africa Secretariat under the theme: ‎“Strengthening Youth Leadership and Engagement in Policy Dialogue for Malaria ‎‎Elimination in Africa‎.”‎

A study led by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria ‎highlighted that  9 in 10 African youths want to take personal action to fight against malaria, with ‎almost two-thirds believing the disease can be eliminated in their lifetimes.

The AU Malaria Conversation Guide for Youth in Africa has been developed in direct response to the youth’s ‎expression of interest in participating in the decision-making process regarding malaria response in ‎Africa.‎

In addition, investing in empowering the youth to participate in the malaria response is critical in Africa as seventy-five per cent of the continent’s population is made up of young people between 15 and 24 years.

Additionally, the Africa Health Strategy and the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030 call for investment in youth and adolescents as a smart, pragmatic economic intervention with a high return on investment.

Specifically, they identify the need to empower youth with skills and knowledge to attain good health and prosperity in the context of the AU Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030.

In this context, the AU Commission, in ‎collaboration with the African Leaders Malaria ‎Alliance ‎‎(ALMA), RBM Partnership to ‎End Malaria, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, ‎Tuberculosis and ‎Malaria No More, embarked on developing a malaria conversation ‎guide for youth in Africa ‎to empower ‎the young generation for meaningful inclusion in ‎malaria policy dialogue and ‎advocacy. ‎

Under the leadership of the AWA Secretariat, the ‎guide will be availed in various visual ‎‎‎forms to fit the diversity of media consumption by ‎youth in Africa and ensure that no ‎‎malaria ‎youth champion is left behind.

“When I assumed the Chair of Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), I set out a ‎four-point ‎legacy agenda. The ‎four key initiatives include digitisation and scorecard ‎accountability and ‎action plans, ‎multi-sectoral advocacy, action and resource ‎mobilisation, regional coordination, ‎and ‎access to life-saving commodities,” Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya‎ and Chair of ALMA said.

“I ‎encourage young Africans to take on the opportunities ‎emanating from implementing ‎the four-point legacy agenda and leverage this conversation ‎guide to strengthen their ‎capacity to effectively participate in policy dialogues and networks of ‎community ‎malaria youth champions‎.”

According to Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and Chairperson of ‎AIDS ‎Watch Africa, investing in the youth is investing in the wealth of the economy.

“As the Chairperson of the ‎African Union for the year 2022 and Chairperson of AIDS Watch Africa, I champion youth-led ‎strategies that lead to stronger social support for youth from peers, caregivers, communities, ‎and local government. This conversation guide will improve how youth lead and pave the way ‎for malaria elimination in Africa by 2030,” he said.

Minata Samate Cessouma‎, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs ‎‎‎and ‎Social Development‎, AUC called on the youth to bring this conversation guide into full play by convening dialogues that ‎advance resource mobilisation for malaria control and equitable funding distribution‎.

“In this ‎way, the youth in Africa can also carry through our shared imperative as citizens of Africa: to ‎save the lives of Africa’s citizens by rising to ‎ the challenges and closing the service delivery ‎gaps,” Cessouma said.

According to Chido Cleo Mpemba, AU Youth Envoy, meaningful ‎youth engagement should integrate the experiences and ideas of young people ‎into ‎program design while also building on their skills and strengths.

“This conversation guide provides detailed insights into examples of youth-friendly ‎interventions ‎and best practices that can be utilised to structure events that create suitable ‎environments for ‎meaningful engagement of youth in malaria policies. I encourage its full ‎utilisation to strengthen ‎the youth’s capacity to hold meaningful policy dialogues on ‎malaria,” she said.

The guide provides insights from many other global health leaders from all four AU Regions and partner agencies, providing ‎practical guidelines on designing and implementing a policy dialogue on malaria.