The war on malaria in Africa has been unending, but the leaders championing the cause have also been unrelenting. For a couple of years now, the fight against this rampaging disease has not been given much attention and the commitments have not been proportionate to the degree to which it’s needed. But with the renewed action against malaria, there’s at least a cause for optimism.
On Wednesday at the Global Malaria Summit, held along with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this week, several Heads of State and government, Bill Gates, ministers from 19 Commonwealth countries, scientists and private sector and international organisations made significant financial and political commitments. Led by the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the leaders pledged £2.7 billion to drive research and innovation, and improve access to malaria prevention and treatments.
“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,” Gates said. “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.”
According to reports, commitments exceeded expectations by £200 million and also stated that it would go a long way in addressing the most pressing needs. “That commitment would prevent 350 million cases of the disease in the next five years and save 650,000 lives across Commonwealth countries,” the group said.
The Malaria Summit London aims to highlight the stalled progress in fighting the disease, and “unite leaders of government, business, science, and the global health community to renew their commitment to beat malaria once and for all.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) World Malaria Report 2017, there was a remarkable increase in the number of malaria cases in 2016. An estimated 216 million cases of malaria were found in 2016, an increase of about 5 million cases over 2015. Deaths also reached 445 000, identical to the figures of the previous year
Six out of the 10 countries most affected by malaria are members of the Commonwealth: Nigeria, India, Mozambique, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. And they accounted for nearly half – 99 million – of the total number of cases in 2016. Nigeria has the highest number of cases in Africa with 57 million, according to the WHO.
Other commitments, besides funding, include high-level political commitment, creating new innovative tools to overcome the growing threat of resistance and improving methods to track the disease to enable more effective and efficient intervention and to prevent resurgence.
A breakdown of the funding will see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation increasing its multi-billion dollar philanthropic investments by £700 million while a £1.45 billion commitment by 46 countries affected by malaria was confirmed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund works in 38 of the 53 Commonwealth countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi and Tanzania.
Other leaders who spoke at the summit include Prince Charles of Wales, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, presidents of Kenya, Gambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Ghana, and other prominent individuals.