Most people would agree that the thought of anyone dying from a mosquito bite in the twenty first century is unacceptable. Yet, in large parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America , children continue to die from malaria which is preventable and treatable.
In the past few years, many countries have carried out dramatic efforts to increase prevention interventions against malaria. Through Global Fund-supported programs, 230 million insecticide-treated nets were distributed to protect families against this deadly disease.
However, a lot more needs to be done if we are to reach international targets to reduce the burden of disease to a level at which malaria is no longer a public health problem in most countries where it has been endemic.
This year, on 25th April, we are celebrating World Malaria Day under the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria”. Continued investment in effective malaria control is critical to safeguard the gains that have been achieved over the past decade. Studies have confirmed that investments made by major funders such as the Global Fund have rapidly decreased the burden of malaria.
But we do not only have to sustain the gains that have been made, we also need to improve the level of sophistication of malaria testing, treatment and tracking of patients. Global Fund- supported programs need to focus on increasing the quality of interventions so that appropriate diagnosis and treatment are carried out, to avoid for example, the common problem of diagnosing any fever as malaria.
Another immediate challenge on the horizon is the need to replace millions of insecticide-treated nets that were provided through Global Fund-supported programs in 2008 and 2009 and will soon wear out.
In a difficult economic environment, we need to ensure that investments are used efficiently. The Global Fund is entering into iterative discussions with countries in order to lay out detailed plans and improve the quality of their malaria programs.
We are at a crucial inflection point. The global economic crisis has led to pressures on international health spending at precisely the moment when we need to increase investments. If adequate resources are not raised, it will raise serious doubts as to whether the gains in malaria mortality reduction can be built on or even sustained.
The world must re-commit to a new effort. It is when times are hard that real solidarity must be shown. Continued increased investments in fighting malaria are more important now, at a time of financial crisis, than ever.