Subnational leaders in Namibia launch new multisectoral committees to drive malaria elimination advocacy and resource mobilization efforts

With MEI’s support, four regions in northern Namibia have established new multisectoral leadership committees that will drive advocacy efforts to ensure malaria elimination remains a top local priority and is adequately funded. Kavango East, Kavango West, Oshikoto, and Zambezi have each created a Malaria Elimination Task Force (METF) comprised of local leaders representing government, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, private sector, academia, and local elected officials. The METFs function as subcommittees of Namibia’s established and well-connected Regional AIDS Coordinating Committees, reporting to elected authorities on the Regional Council. The METFs lead advocacy, multisectoral action, and political engagement to complement the national malaria program’s technical leadership and subnational programmatic implementation that is primarily led by Regional Health Directorates. In the next annual budget cycle, the METFs plan to advocate for integration of malaria into Regional Council operational plans and budgets – which historically have not included malaria.

The establishment of METFs is one of many exciting outcomes of a 2-year malaria budget advocacy (MBA) partnership between MEI and Namibia’s National Vector-borne Diseases Control Programme (NVDCP) that spanned from 2019 to 2021. Utilizing MEI’s Sustainability Model, the MEI-Namibia partnership expanded MEI’s MBA support from Asia Pacific to sub-Saharan Africa and sought to strengthen leadership, advocacy, and public financial management capacities of subnational malaria leaders to support sustainability and accelerate progress toward elimination.

Other resources created under the Namibia MBA initiative, in partnership with the Centre for Economic Governance and Accountability in Africa, include:

Namibia’s regional leaders reflected on the value and impact of MEI’s support in broadening coalitions of subnational malaria advocates and strengthening their capacities to engage in the budget process:

I have seen a big impact on stakeholder engagement since MBA started. Regional Health Directorates [are] reaching decentralized stakeholders and leaders in the constituencies, and they are now more open to malaria messages… The budgeting aspect has been very informative and helpful for me as a professional in public health. The prioritization process of needs [and how to influence] the budget process has been insightful. Even just to understand that advocacy is such a diverse field… We had many eye-opening moments as a team.” - Advocacy focal point, Oshikoto region

Although MEI’s support has concluded, the design of the partnership was built to ensure continuity. The METFs were intentionally institutionalized within an existing political platform and will convene on a quarterly basis without external financial or technical support. These nascent platforms have also been connected to other malaria elimination advocates in southern Africa: The METF leaders are networked to peers who lead Zambia’s provincial End Malaria Councils, colleagues at ALMA, the Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative’s Faith Leader Advocacy for Malaria Elimination (FLAME) initiative, and the SADC Elimination 8’s multi-country advocacy and resource mobilization team who will lead implementation of a new Global Fund award.

Namibia is aiming to achieve malaria elimination by 2022. However, recent increases in malaria incidence and simultaneous decreases in external financing present dual threats to Namibia’s ability to achieve and sustain elimination and underscore the importance of efforts to strengthen sustainability of the malaria response.

The MEI’s MBA support built upon MEI’s strong partnership with Namibia’s NVDCP that has provided technical assistance and operational research support. Other recent MEI-Namibia partnership initiatives included research on malaria risk factors in high-risk populations, as well as evidence on community acceptance of reactive focal mass drug administration and reactive focal vector control using IRS.