The theme for this World Malaria Day is ‘sustain gains, save lives’. As with the other two diseases which have received a huge boost from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, this disease is on the cusp of many breakthroughs in efforts to control it and the message coming from the millions of people who are every day at risk of contracting malaria is ‘don’t lose focus now’.
Last October a large-scale Phase III trial of RTS,S a malaria vaccine candidate, demonstrated its first positive results. The results showed young African children with significant protection against clinical and severe malaria. The results came after 40 years of scientists seeking to develop a vaccine for Malaria, a 30 month period of analysis in regard to the vaccine’s safety will bring results by 2014. Whilst the vaccine does not kill the malaria parasite it will boost the immune systems of those most vulnerable to the disease in order that they might more effectively fight it.
Such developments are only possible if there are the funds to invest in such innovative research and product development partnerships which harness the power of the private sector to invest as well as engaging the most affected communities in trials.
This World Malaria Day comes as the history of the response to the disease lies in the balance. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which currently provides nearly a quarter of all international funding to fight AIDS, over half of the funding against malaria and more than four-fifths of all funding to fight TB is in crisis. Huge funding shortfalls meaning the cancellation of its 11th funding round threaten the progress made to date on malaria as well as presenting a risk that gains might be reversed as resistance to malaria drugs rises in key malaria hotspots.
Today a key faith leader in the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for world leaders not to lose sight of our achievements to date and potential progress for the future. He noted that
“Local churches and other grassroots organisations have been key partners in enabling this progress, alongside a concerted effort from the international community through mechanisms such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Warning of the danger of reversing gains made he added:
“The current gap in global funding needed to fight malaria threatens to undo many of the hard won gains and risks allowing malaria to regain a hold on communities who are close to elimination.
On this World Malaria Day I urge governments to continue to invest in malaria programmes to prevent the unnecessary death of millions of vulnerable people. We have already come so far, let’s not lose momentum now.”
RESULTS UK with Dr Bakeera-Kitaka, a Ugandan visiting Paediatric Health specialist, recognising World Malaria Day at the UK Commonwealth Secretariat’s conference on the same theme.