By Ruth Marsden - 12th April 2013
I strongly confirm that we will continue to support the fight against malaria
The fight against malaria is a global one and countries must work together to tackle the life-threatening disease. Ruth Marsden reports
More than 660,000 people, mostly children, are dying each year from malaria because they lack access to effective disease prevention tools. This shocking figure is in addition to an estimated 216 million new cases of malaria every year, most of which are never tested or registered, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). European development commissioner Andris Piebalgs told the Parliament Magazine that world malaria day on 25 April was an opportunity “to reflect on what still needs to be done to win the fight against this global scourge”.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. WHO research shows that approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of the disease, with most cases and deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected. In 2011, 99 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission, according to the UN health agency. However malaria is preventable and curable with the right measures and controls in place.
Despite the huge amount of work still to be done in winning the fight against malaria, progress has been made. “Thanks to the efforts of the EU and international community, as well as governments and health care providers in endemic countries, malaria deaths have fallen by 25 per cent since the year 2000,” Piebalgs said.
He went on, “I strongly confirm that we will continue to support the fight against malaria, therefore contributing to the achievement of the millennium development goal to halting and reversing the incidence of the disease by 2015.”
The Latvian official expressed the EU’s strong commitment to the fight against malaria, adding that the European commission is a strong supporter and donor of the global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. He highlighted that, “Since its establishment in 2002, the global fund has supported more than 1000 programmes in 151 countries, providing 310 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) to put over people’s beds to prevent infections.”
The global fund is an international financing institution dedicated to attracting and disbursing resources to prevent and treat HIV and Aids, TB and malaria. The global fund promotes partnerships among governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities to help reach those in need. The fund’s executive director Mark Dybul told a high level panel discussion focusing on ending Aids, TB and malaria, that the global fund takes the “role of a catalyst”. “Its aim is to change policy,” he said, adding that people should be entitled to medical health and services from their government when it comes to these diseases. There must also be a co-financing approach from governments, Dybul argued, with governments “more accountable for the health of their people”. “We need prevention for life,” he said.
Dybul, a former US ambassador and global Aids coordinator, believes that the 21st century global approach to development is a “great achievement” and it “brings the fight against disease together”. “The 21st century needs a learning organisation, to learn what does and doesn’t work and adapt to that. Lots of people are still lacking information. Now we have an historic opportunity to build a partnership and a union, while ending these epidemics,” he said.
Deputy director general of the European commission’s development and cooperation DG Klaus Rudischhauser said that the global fund “has isolated and drawn attention to a phenomenon”. He also warned that the EU should recognise that the global fund should not last forever, but that in the meantime “it is absolutely useful”.
“[The commission] has never considered it sufficient to just put money into the global fund,” Rudischhauser added, “so we will continue to provide substantial support not only through the fund, but through our instruments too.”
“With a strong global fund and other instruments, we have a strong chance to achieve our targets.” On April 25, people around the world will take part activities to mark world malaria day.
This year’s theme ‘Invest in the future: Defeat malaria’, is aimed at strengthening the political will globally, while hoping to contribute to funding needed to control malaria in epidemic countries.
As the WHO warns, if the world is to maintain and accelerate progress against malaria in line with the millennium development goals, more funds are urgently required.
Ruth Marsden is a journalist at the Parliament Magazine