The Impact of World Malaria Day
The answers to eliminating malaria-related deaths have long been tied up in the search for a malaria vaccine. However, Congress’s motion to put the full force of the United States behind a “World Malaria Day” is taking the fate of 3.2 billion people who are considered “high risk” out of the hands of the pharmaceutical labs.
In 2007, the 60th session of the World Health Assembly established the world’s first “Malaria Day.” Commemorated annually on April 25th, World Malaria Day is intended to emphasize and expand the fight against malaria. Through events, forums and awareness campaigns, this initiative pools the resources of the globe to increase accessibility to malaria prevention resources that exist today and ensure that those resources reach the 3.2 billion who live under fear of this threatening disease.
In April of this year, the United States reaffirmed its role in the organization and efforts behind World Malaria Day by passing Senate Resolution 119. Sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Chris Coons (D-Del), this bipartisan bill emphasizes the United States’ strategy to attack malaria’s devastating effects on child and maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Last year alone, we saw nearly 200 million cases of malaria around the world that led to more than 580,000 deaths. Most of those deaths were children under five years old, and 90 percent of them struck in Africa. These are sobering statistics, but we know that this terrible disease is both preventable and treatable,” said Wicker in a press release.
Although it may seem trivial compared to the creation of a vaccine, there is no arguing with the past results of World Malaria Day. The mortality rate of malaria plummeted by 47 percent globally, and 54 percent in Africa, largely due to the increased rates of expenditure on preventative measures like malaria nets and anti-malarial drugs.
Increased expenditure comes from increased awareness, and increased awareness is one of the central goals of World Malaria Day.
The United States’ recent renewal of their commitment to fighting world malaria has the potential to help reduce the rate of malaria mortality by the remaining 53 percent. This recent bill ensures that the United States will continue to partner the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) — started by President Bush in 2005 — with the efforts of WHO and the Global Fund, as well as numerous private and public organizations. Already, the PMI has helped reduce malaria-related deaths by 35 percent and has provided 15 million bed nets, 6 million rapid diagnostic tests and over 4.4 million anti-malarial tablets to the people of Madagascar.
Combined with the efforts of the globe coordinated in forums on April 25th, it is estimated that 4.2 million lives have been saved — and that’s without the creation of an effective vaccine.
However, while these results are promising, there are still nearly $5.1 billion needed to fully fund the efforts of World Malaria Day. As it stands, the total amount of funds are capped at $2.6 billion, which includes the contribution of the PMI.
“As we approach World Malaria Day,” said Coons, “we are reminded of the incredible successes we’ve had in recent years, but we’re also reminded of how much work lies ahead.”
– Emma Betuel
Sources: Senate.gov, USAID, CDC, Congress.gov, World Malaria Day
Photo: The Iran Project