Each year, World Malaria Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the current status of the fight against malaria. We are in the middle year of the World Malaria Day theme of “Invest in the Future. Defeat Malaria,” which is set to last until 2015.
Funding for malaria control and prevention, as with all international public health endeavors, has always been perceived as a critical issue, but there is a refreshing diversity to the ways in which it is being discussed this World Malaria Day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who spear-headed the successful eradication of malaria in the U.S. back in the 1950s, specifically mention their efforts to maximize effectiveness, and their strategies for using and evaluating new tools such that they can get the most impact per precious dollar spent. The WHO has highlighted the importance of sustained political commitment, as a crucial factor related to ensuring continued financial support for malaria initiatives. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria recently announced a new funding model, designed to enable “strategic investment for maximum impact.”
One of the most interesting, and promising, in my view, is the perspective of Hervé Verhoosel, the Head of External Relations for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, who commemorated World Malaria Day this year in India. In an Op Ed published by The Hindu to mark the occasion, Verhoosel called upon Indian pharmaceutical companies and tech giants, who are rapidly growing in number, size, and prestige, to join the fight. Public-private partnerships, including within Asia, have had demonstrated success in creating novel and market-savvy approaches to addressing traditional challenges in malaria prevention and control.
But will all of this be enough? We have certainly seen successes in reducing the number of deaths from malaria, as well as the overall number of global cases, since 2010. Likewise, the number of countries inching towards elimination continues to rise. However, and particularly as many donor economies continue to face austere budgetary environments, we may need to think even further outside of the box when it comes to “investment” in malaria. Grassroots entrepreneurial efforts, led by people in emerging economies like Nigeria, Brazil and Thailand, who themselves face malaria on a daily basis and thus understand local solutions, will need to be leveraged further. Continuing to link malaria to other disease control efforts, such as successful helminth control programs through much of Africa, could be another way to build on existing investments.
These are but two ideas; if the malaria community is to make the most of the opportunity of the theme of “investment”, now is the time to think up other approaches to bring the necessary resources to bear to tackle malaria and reach global goals for elimination. Please feel free to share your thoughts as comments on Malaria.com – this is your forum for discussion, and I hope it will allow good ideas to flourish and be integrated into the overall fight against malaria.