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25 April 2016

It’s time to rid the world of malaria for good

We have witnessed staggering progress over the past 15 years, with deaths reduced by more than 60 per cent saving 6.2 million lives.

By Diane Abbott

The world has bold ambitions when it comes to malaria, and rightly so when it’s a disease that kills a child every two minutes. Which is why this World Malaria Day we’re focusing on ending malaria for good – something that many now believe is possible in our lifetime.

Based on the staggering progress witnessed over the past 15 years – with deaths reduced by more than 60 per cent saving 6.2 million lives – we know what is working and what more needs to be done. Better access to malaria prevention, such as mosquito nets, tests (which cost 50p) and life-saving treatments (costing £1) have been behind this success. Ambitious but achievable global targets now include reducing malaria deaths by a further 90 per cent by 2030. With half the world’s population at risk from malaria – and nearly half a million deaths annually – there is a lot at stake.

But it will require the right investment. Over the next five years global funding needs to double to reach these goals and save millions of lives with investment from malaria-affected countries’ governments, from donors like the UK and US, as well as the private sector and philanthropists.

This is an investment that we know will pay off – malaria is one of the strongest proof points that aid works. The World Health Organization rates malaria interventions as the second most cost-effective health interventions after childhood immunisation, returning £36 into society for every £1 invested. An estimated $4 trillion could be unlocked in economic output by 2030 by defeating malaria.

As the largest funding mechanism for malaria, the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a critical partner in ending malaria for good and requires the funding it needs for the next three years. Since its creation in 2002 this partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the three diseases have made health investments which have saved 17 million lives, expanded opportunities and achieved greater social justice for families and communities worldwide. And advances in science and innovative solutions are accelerating this progress at an ever faster-rate.  The positive impact of the Global Fund doesn’t just stop at helping to drive down cases and deaths from malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. It’s helping women and girls to thrive; it’s helping to strengthen health systems; it encourages the countries it funds to increase their own resource mobilisation; and it delivers value for money in a transparent way.  The latest Aid Transparency Index by Publish What You Fund found the Global Fund was a strong performer and ranked in the “Very good” category, something the Global Fund say is crucial to their effectiveness.

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This year the Global Fund is seeking to save a further eight million lives, avert up to 300 million infections and new cases of HIV, TB and malaria and lay the groundwork for potential economic gains of up to $290 billion in the years ahead. Returns on an investment that are hugely compelling. A strong Global Fund replenishment will be key to achieving success in ending malaria, and the UK’s role and contribution will be essential to that success.

The UK should also be proud of the role its scientific communities and businesses are playing with some of the best minds taking on the challenge to end the world’s oldest disease. From renowned scientists across Britain working on new malaria drugs, vaccines and insecticides, to business that are helping raise awareness and funds. All of this is helping to deliver success as we work towards ending malaria for good. A bold ambition, yes. But one which has cross-party support and means saving lives now and saving lives forever.  #EndMalaria