23 April 2024 | Statements

New Unitaid report shows manufacturing antimalarials in Africa is critical to fighting malaria

Geneva – A new Unitaid report released ahead of World Malaria Day shows that regional manufacturing of antimalarial drugs in Africa must be urgently scaled up to increase health security and help address growing drug resistance. The report, “Antimalarial manufacturing in Africa: A call for regional action”, lays out a pathway for increasing regional manufacturing of antimalarials on the continent.

“Regional manufacturing of quality-assured, affordable treatments in Africa is critical to health security and to achieve universal health coverage. This will also contribute significantly to the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and support achievement of climate targets by reducing transport costs and carbon emissions,” said Robert Matiru, Unitaid’s Director of Programs. “While there are still significant barriers to be addressed, our research shows that recent advancements in pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities in Africa make this an opportune time for all stakeholders to work together to support the continent’s emerging antimalarial manufacturing sector.”

Approximately 608,000 people died from malaria worldwide in 2022 – 95% of those were in sub-Saharan Africa, and 78% of those were children under 5. But despite shouldering the largest global burden, Africa produces very few antimalarial treatments – simple, cost-effective medicines to prevent or cure the disease. Most antimalarial treatments are imported from China and India. Overall, Africa imports more than 95% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients and 70% of all medicines used on the continent.

To date, support has been limited for strengthening regional manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in Africa due to key challenges such as deficient infrastructure, lack of access to affordable financing, a shortage of relevant skills, limited avenues for technology transfer, high cost of production, the cost and difficulty of securing WHO prequalification, and weak regulatory and quality assurance systems. In this new report, Unitaid has identified opportunities for interventions that address these barriers to achieve scaled, cost-effective, sustainable and commercially viable manufacturing of antimalarials in Africa.

“The RBM Partnership to End Malaria welcomes this bold move by Unitaid on regional manufacturing of antimalaria commodities in Africa,” said Dr. Michael Charles, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. “This is such an important response and commendable action following the declaration made in March in Yaoundé around the accelerated malaria mortality reduction in Africa. The RBM Partnership will work closely with Unitaid towards a seamless execution of the strategies laid out in this report. We hereby invite governments, industry and other relevant partners to join us on this extremely important endeavor.”

Although malaria case incidence has reduced dramatically since 2000, progress has stalled and urgent threats like antimicrobial resistance and climate change are emerging. Malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that transmit them are developing resistance to WHO-recommended antimalarial medicines, threatening one of our strongest lines of defense. Climate change is pushing malaria-carrying mosquitos to new regions and higher altitudes as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift, putting more people at risk. The transmission season is getting longer, resulting in more people being exposed to malaria for longer periods of time, and extreme weather events like flooding and storms increase the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

By strengthening regional manufacturing capacity to produce new antimalarials, including non-artemisinin-based treatments, and helping to diversify the use of recommended treatments, we can help fight drug resistance and strengthen health security for millions of people at risk of malaria in Africa. Producing drugs close to where they will be used also reduces the climate impact, as a large portion of climate emissions in pharmaceutical production is related to transport, as reported recently by Unitaid in its report “From milligrams to megatons: A climate and nature assessment of 10 key health products”.


Media Contact

Kyle Wilkinson, Media Officer, Unitaid

wilkinsonk@unitaid.who.int

+41 79 445 1745


About Unitaid

Unitaid is a global health organization that saves lives by making new health products available and affordable for people in low- and middle-income countries. We work with partners to identify innovative treatments, tests and tools, help tackle the market barriers that are holding them back, and get them to the people who need them most – fast. Since we were created in 2006, we have unlocked access to more than 100 groundbreaking health products to help address the world’s biggest health challenges, including HIV, TB and malaria; women’s and children’s health; and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Every year, more than 170 million people benefit from the products we’ve helped roll out. https://unitaid.org

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