International efforts to build a prosperous Africa are doomed unless malaria is tackled

In advance of the G8 Ministerial meetings, the first report of the All-Party Parliamentary Malaria Group concludes that unless malaria is tackled as a global crisis with increased and sustained resources, UK’s plans for Africa will fail.

The All-Party Parliamentary Malaria Group is a new forum where British parliamentarians and many malaria based organisations have come together to promote a new and united voice to help fight the world’s number 1 killer disease the Report states. The biggest obstacle to progress at present is not a shortage of knowledge about how to deal with malaria but a paucity of political will to put this knowledge into practice.

“At least half of the malaria deaths in children could be avoided if their parents had access to diagnosis and drugs that cost less than £1 per treatment,” said Stephen O’Brien, Chairman of the All-Party Malaria Group. He confirmed that “A renewed commitment to tackling this ancient scourge will help everyone in the developing and developed countries by enabling them to increase their economic potential. We must match our commitment to the severity of the problem”.

Mr O’Brien welcomes the UK’s proposals to provide debt relief for the poorest countries and create a fund, the International Finance Facility, which might raise up to US$ 50 billion annually. However, the sheer scale of the human and economic burden of malaria in Africa jeopardises the enormous benefits that these new initiatives could bring.

“The Copenhagen Consensus, the expert panel of leading economists, said in their debate on prioritising the world’s greatest challenges, that the control of malaria ranked as one of the four top priorities”, said Mr O’Brien.

The majority of the 1 to 3 million people that malaria kills each year live in Africa where it is the biggest killer of children under five years old. Although malaria is preventable with mosquito nets, insecticides and curable using drugs, these essentials are not getting to those who need them.

Despite malaria's devastating toll, funding for malaria control by international donors has typically amounted to just US$ 100–200 million annually. Recently, however, with the establishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the amount has risen. Nevertheless, at least £1.5 billion each year would be required to make any serious impact on malaria in Africa. As the report notes this is the equivalent of just 2–3 days' worth of US and European Union farm subsidies.

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