|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria,
Executive Director of Roll Back Malaria Partnership
Despite “unprecedented gains” in the fight against malaria, especially among children, there was a real danger of slipping back, leading experts in the fight against the disease said at Headquarters today.
Briefing at a press conference on the 2012 World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Malaria Report, Ray Chambers, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria, said the report noted continued progress in tackling the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, where a dozen countries had seen at least a 50 per cent reduction in the incidence of the disease.
However, reduced funds for anti-malaria interventions gave “all kinds of warning signs” about the danger of backsliding, he cautioned, pointing out that three rounds of funding had been cancelled and a $3.6 billion financing gap was predicted for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years. The Global Fund, accounting for 60 per cent of all anti-malaria funding, needed “robust replenishment” in September 2013 in order to re-start its vital work, with greater participation needed from those who had previously pledged, he stressed.
The Rollback Malaria Partnership had outlined a plan just two weeks ago, he continued, emphasizing that follow-up was vital if the financing gap was to be bridged. Options discussed included a long-term bond, as well as taxes on the sale of airline tickets and financial transactions.
Creativity and ideas were needed to meet the shortfall, he said, warning that if the funding crisis was not addressed, children who had slept under nets would be at heightened risk because the prophylactic nets meant “they do not have the chance to build immunity to the disease”. The effects of that could amount to a humanitarian crisis, he said, citing the example of Sri Lanka, where efforts to eradicate malaria had worked, only for the Government to turn its attention elsewhere, thereby allowing the disease to return to the same levels it had attained before efforts to tackle it. That same danger now faced sub-Saharan Africa, he warned.
Accompanying Mr. Chambers was Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, who spoke by video link from Geneva and echoed concerns that failure to address the funding gap could result in a higher number of deaths from malaria, including in places where the disease had previously been seriously limited. It was necessary to do everything to ensure that did not happen, she emphasized, calling for the financing gap’s closure as soon as possible. Funding was the most critical issue, she said, noting that the report pointed clearly to a need to scale-up malaria interventions and to ensure better access.
While 50 out of 99 countries affected by malaria were currently on track to reach the World Health Assembly’s target of reducing incidence by 75 per cent by 2015, maintaining that pace would require the distribution of 150 million bed nets every year, she pointed out, recalling that in 2012, reduced funding had meant that only 66 million could be distributed. The global threat posed by malaria could be met if additional resources were mobilized and all partners raised the resources they devoted to controlling the disease. Investing a single dollar in malaria control brought a return of $35 to $45, so the economic incentive to tackle the disease was clearly apparent, she said.
Asked about the environmental safety of the insecticide used in bed nets, she said it was used both on bed nets and on bedroom walls, adding that the amount used was very small and had been shown not to have any ill effects on human beings.
To a question about a Brookings Institute report into the broader impact and benefits of anti-malaria interventions, Mr. Chambers replied that research showed additional impacts of donor nations’ efforts to eradicate malaria, including improved good-will towards them. Following the 2004 tsunami, Indonesians had felt more positively towards Western nations, he said. He also cited General Jim Jones, a former United States National Security Adviser, who had said that such interventions could do more to prevent terrorism than anything donor nations could do militarily.
Asked a question about the accuracy of figures relating to anti-malaria efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, Dr. Nafo-Traoré noted that the two countries accounted for more than 40 per cent of malaria deaths worldwide. As they were so large, it was understandable that they produced so many cases, she added.
When asked about the failings of the Affordable Medicines Facilities for Malaria, Mr. Chambers said there had been much scepticism about the programme, in the belief that passing a subsidy through private sellers would lead to the enrichment of private businesspeople. However, studies had shown that by far the vast majority of kiosk sellers were passing on discounts to those who would otherwise not have access. By and large, the scheme had been very successful, he stressed.
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