Dr Corine Karema
Interim CEO, RBM Partnership to End Malaria
Ending malaria and NTDs will save lives, advance equity and build resilience.
Over the past two years, no country has been spared the impacts of COVID-19, a deadly infectious disease that killed millions, infected millions and devastated communities, economies and health systems. The same impacts can be attributed to malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) however, these diseases have been around for millennia and typically prey on the world’s poorest in Africa.
Ending preventable and treatable diseases
In 2000, global leaders committed funding and action to reduce cases and deaths caused by these diseases. Thanks to this strong political will and increased funding, by 2015 malaria deaths were cut by over half and more than 5 billion NTD preventive treatments were delivered. The tremendous progress achieved through global collaboration and commitment prompted more ambition to end these preventable and treatable diseases by 2030.
In the case of malaria, a turning point was the launch of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Significantly, 20 years later, the Global Fund, working with the US President’s Malaria Initiative and country partners, has saved 44 million lives.
But in the last two years, progress has slowed and cases and deaths are on the rise. With challenges of drug and insecticide resistance, COVID-19 and humanitarian emergencies, the world is at a precarious juncture in the fight against malaria.
By 2015, malaria deaths were cut by over half and more than 5 billion NTD preventive treatments were delivered.
Better prepared for better results
However, there is hope on the horizon. Thanks to greater country ownership, better use of data and targeting of existing and new tools, a pipeline of transformative tools and strong political will. And, if governments, the private sector, communities and partners come together later this year to fulfil the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment goal of at least USD 18 billion, we can turbocharge progress again toward a malaria-free future.
By mobilising new funding, we can scale up existing and breakthrough tools, including new nets and vaccines and better target interventions to the local context. We also must invest more in research and development to deliver transformative new tools, such as second-generation vaccines, that will accelerate our path to malaria eradication.
Critically, these innovative approaches will also help countries strengthen their health systems, allowing them to better protect citizens against malaria and NTDs and be better prepared for future pandemics.
With COVID, we’ve seen what the world can do when it comes together. Let’s recommit to saving millions more lives from malaria and NTDs, invest in health and deliver a more equitable world for all.