My role as a malaria ambassador 

Posted 15th June 2023 by Krystal Birungi

After three years of being a member of the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) Speakers Bureau, I am honoured to have been re-selected to be a part of a cohort of committed speakers spotlighting the Global Fund’s work and encouraging collective engagement and increased funding to aid the fight against malaria.  

The GFAN Speakers Bureau is a register of advocates who are committed to sharing the messages to fund the Global Fund, to create policy changes for positive enabling environments and to increase domestic investments in health and to encourage collective engagement in their advocacy to governments and decision-makers. 

Over the last three years, I have enjoyed working alongside other committed advocates to end AIDS, TB and malaria, sharing our personal experiences and advocating for the Fund’s work. This culminated in speaking at the Global Fund replenishment conference in 2022. 

In Uganda, where I live and work, malaria affects over 90% of the population and is the number one cause of death for children under the age of five. These are not just statistics for me, they are my lived reality. My two younger brothers and I fell ill with malaria at the ages of five, two and five, respectively. I recall being desperately sick and my mother calling personal contacts who worked in clinics to try to get access to affordable medication. 

Thanks in part to Global Fund programmes, children in many villages no longer have to go through this. First line treatments are now available at many government health centres free of charge. I remember when Village Health Teams (VHT) were set up locally, and the difference these made to those battling against the disease. Although the fight is a long way from won, I am thankful to have seen the changes brought on by the Global Fund’s programmes to both my family and multiple community members’ lives. 

Inside the laboratory at the Uganda Virus Research Institute. Image credit: The Global Fund 

Seeing people do something and work together to beat this deadly disease shaped my career. It ignited a belief that I too could make a difference. I pursued my interest in genetics with the belief that the fight against malaria would benefit from additional tools to add to those already deployed. I believe it is futile to try to tackle this disease with only one approach – our best chance of eliminating malaria is to research, develop and deploy all tools available to us. 

With the rest of the Target Malaria team outside the Uganda Virus Research Institute. Image credit: The Global Fund

Today, in my work as Entomology Field Coordinator for Target Malaria, I work to better understand malaria mosquitoes and their genetics. Information collected by our teams is crucial to inform the development of a new genetic technology to reduce the number of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. We hope that, in conjunction with existing tools, our new approach can help to reverse the trend of stalled progress towards malaria eradication. 

“I am just one voice in millions that has benefited from the Global fund work, but that is one voice I am proud to add in advocacy for an organization that is doing so much amazing work in my country and throughout the world.”

I am proud to be able to do my part in the fight against malaria through my work, and hope that as a GFAN speaker I will succeed in stepping-up this battle. I am just one voice amongst millions that have benefited from the Global Fund’s work, but that is one voice I am thankful and excited to add in advocacy for an organisation that is doing so much amazing work in my country and throughout the world.