Governments, businesses, and philanthropies have pledged a total of £2.7 billion ($3.8 billion) in support of efforts to halve the number of malaria cases in Commonwealth countries over the next five years.
Announced at the Malaria Summit London 2018 on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the commitments will support efforts to prevent three hundred and fifty million cases of malaria and save six hundred and fifty thousand lives, with a focus on children and pregnant women, who are most at risk. Convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Malaria No More UK, and Malaria Must Die, the summit brought together leaders of donor and malaria-affected governments — including fifteen Commonwealth countries — as well as businesses, philanthropies, and nongovernmental organizations committed to providing financial and political support for innovative, cutting-edge research, better data, and increased access to life-saving interventions.
To that end, the government of the UK announced £100 million ($143 million) in 1:1 matching funds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; £50 million ($71.5 million) through 2024 for a new malaria-prevention program in Nigeria; and £9.2 million ($13.2 million) in research funds to develop new triple artemisinin combination treatments, while reaffirming its commitment to spend £500 million ($715 million) annually on malaria initiatives through 2020-21. The Gates Foundation pledged an additional $1 billion through 2023 for research and development and £50 million to the Global Fund in response to the UK's matching commitment, while the Global Fund itself announced commitments totaling $2 billion from forty-six malaria-affected countries. And the government of Uganda pledged to create a dedicated malaria fund and mobilize an additional $785 million by 2020, while the United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign said it would raise at least $5 million by the end of 2020 to help protect vulnerable populations, including refugees, internally displaced persons, and marginalized indigenous communities.
In addition, GSK and Novartis will invest £175 million ($250 million) and $100 million, respectively, in malaria research and development; five crop protection companies announced the launch of ZERO by 40, an initiative supported by the Gates Foundation and IVCC aimed at accelerating the development of innovative vector control tools; and the Visualize No Malaria Initiative, backed by eight leading technology companies, pledged $2.6 million to expand its efforts in southern Africa to provide timely visual analytics to help officials and health workers with their malaria elimination planning and response efforts. Last but not least, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance said they would promote the use of regional and national tracking mechanisms designed to enable government leaders and officials to better see and respond to progress and challenges in the battle against the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of malaria cases globally rose in 2016 for the first time in a decade, as the parasite and the mosquito that spreads it continued to develop resistance to drugs used to eliminate them. The problem of drug resistance has been compounded by a slow-down in global funding for malaria interventions since 2010; climate change, which encourages the growth and spread of mosquito populations; and acute malaria outbreaks in conflict-plagued areas.
"History has shown that with malaria there is no standing still — we move forward or risk resurgence," said Bill Gates. "The commitments made today, from the UK, country leadership, and the private sector, show that the world is ready to beat malaria. It's a disease that is preventable, treatable, and ultimately beatable, but progress against malaria is not inevitable. We hope today marks a turning point against the disease, and that the Commonwealth takes a leading role in saving lives and ending malaria for good."
"People living in Commonwealth countries are on the front lines of the fight against malaria, a disease that sucks the lifeblood out of communities and economies, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa," said Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, board chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. "A commitment by leaders to halve malaria in the Commonwealth would help drive dramatic progress in the next five years, putting the world back on track to end malaria for good. We hope today's Malaria Summit will mark the start of this new movement and pave the way toward ending history's oldest and deadliest killer and save millions from this preventable disease."
(Photo credit: Malaria No More Cameroon/Esther Havens)