Good news, or great challenge? U.S. could help eliminate malaria


World Malaria Report 2016, published December 13, offers great hope in progress made against malaria in the past 16 years.

But it also notes a severe challenge: Funding to beat malaria works well, but funding pledges sometimes are not met, and progress against the disease slowed some in 2016.

In 2000, nearly a million people died from malaria worldwide. In 2015, the death toll had been cut to ~470,000, a 50% reduction in 15 years.

In 2016, ~429,000 people died from malaria. It’s 40,000 fewer people than the year before. Malaria fighters had hoped for more.

Most deaths occur in Africa, most deaths occur to children, and most deaths occur in areas where distribution of insecticide-impregnated bednets has not been complete. Distribution was slowed in 2016 by lack of funds at steps in the process, from manufacturing the nets (now done significantly in Africa) to distributing the nets, to educating people how to use them. Nets are more effective than pesticide spraying, with DDT or the other 11 approved pesticides, and considerably less expensive.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

WHO’s press release on the Report laid out the problem, with hints at a solution.

Sustained and sufficient funding for malaria control is a serious challenge. Despite a steep increase in global investment for malaria between 2000 and 2010, funding has since flat-lined. In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the funding milestone for 2020 (US$ 6.4 billion).

Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided about 31% of total malaria funding in 2015. The United States of America is the largest international malaria funder, accounting for about 35% of total funding in 2015, followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (16%).

U.S. funding was just over $1 billion. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not even a drop in the U.S. federal budget bucket.

With a doubling of the U.S. contribution to $2 billion, the U.S. could again lead the world in fighting malaria, and set a good example of American democracy in action.

In doing that, another 100,000 lives might be saved each year.

Then, U.S. would have high moral ground to urge other nations to contribute to fighting malaria, either directly through WHO or through non-governmental organizations whose work goes too-often unsung, such as Malaria No More, Nothing But ‘Nets, and the Clinton Foundation.

$10 buys a net and distribution, and a net protects a child from malaria better than spraying dangerous insecticides, for two to five years.

What are the odds the Trump administration could be recruited to beat malaria? Let’s increase those odds.

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