With approximately half the world’s population at risk from malaria and nearly 1 million a year dying from it, World Malaria Day seeks to highlight the efforts being made to provide effective control of the disease.
Most of the deaths associated with malaria occur in Africa, and it is estimated that an African child dies from the disease every 45 seconds. However, it is preventable, and curable. This is why World Malaria Day, created in 2007 and celebrated on 25 April 2010 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is an important event to commemorate action being taken to prevent such a disease.
Only 60 years ago the disease was prevalent in Europe – but thanks to effective public health procedures it was eradicated. The WHO wants to deliver treatment to all people affected by malaria by the end of 2010. This ambitious plan, as outlined by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, is aiming for universal coverage by the end of this year, and the effective end of malaria-related deaths by 2015, along with a gradual stamping out of the disease. “In a very short time”, said Ban Ki-Moon, “the world has gone from simply trying to hold malaria at bay to the realistic goal of delivering effective and affordable care to all who need it.”
The plan, under the auspices of the Roll Back Malaria partnership, aims to have more than 700 million insecticide-treated bednets, more than 200 million doses of effective treatment, indoor spraying for around 200 million homes annually, and approximately 1.5 billion diagnostic tests annually. The majority of these will be in Africa where the disease is most prevalent.
Importance of funding
In order to achieve this, substantial funds will be needed. The costs of such a crucial operation are expected to run into billions of dollars:
- In 2010, $6.2 billion will be needed;
- From 2011 to 2020, roughly $5 billion per year will be needed;
- In addition, about $1 billion per year will be needed for research and development of new prevention and treatment tools.
The importance of sustained funding to reach the 2015 goals has been highlighted by all major health institutions, emphasising that the consequences of not providing funding would be disastrous, especially for Africa.
However, in some high-transmission-rate countries, simple prevention measures will not be enough to eradicate malaria. Instead, an extended period of control may be needed until effective ways are found to ensure prevention mechanisms will be adequate to prevent any resurgence of the disease.
In some countries, such as in Africa, where transmission rates are high, malaria can lead to a dramatic decrease in a country’s GDP. The WHO estimates this drop can be up to 1.3% which, in the long run, puts malaria-infected countries at an economic disadvantage. In some countries, it can soak up to 40% of a national health budget.
The wider picture
The EU is part of a wider partnership addressing the challenge of fighting malaria. The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has already committed $19.3 billion to fight the diseases. The EU has contributed more than 55% of the funding since the Fund was created in 2001. EU funds are channelled through the Action Programme which runs until 2011.
The Africa-EU Partnership also addresses the fight against malaria within the context of the MDG Partnership. It seeks to develop joint strategies to enhance access to medicines, and increase the capacity of African countries to train and retain health workers, amongst others.