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Money becomes the priority in anti-malaria struggle

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2013 (IPS) - The global fight against malaria has now come down to a question of money, according to Jeffrey Sachs, the United Nations Special Advisor for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose 2015 target date is approaching fast.

Delivering a speech at the U.N. headquarters on Apr. 17, Sachs stressed that malaria is now a “100 percent curable disease” thanks to huge progress over the last ten years.

However, the international community cannot afford to slacken its pace and every effort must be made to replenish the coffers that drive the anti-malaria programmes worldwide, finding the necessary financial resources to deliver timely treatments.

According to the 2012 World Malaria Report, issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria mortality rates decreased by 26 percent globally between 2000 and 2010.

Financial resources management has also improved. “We know how to invest our resources much more strategically than we did in the past,” said Simon Bland, chair of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, also called the Global Fund.

But despite these achievements, malaria still claims approximately 655,000 lives in the world each year. Of these fatalities, 85 percent are children under the age of five and 90 percent occur in the African continent.

International funding for malaria control programmes rose from less than 100 million dollars in 2000 to its peak of 1.71 billion dollars in 2010, which has been instrumental in allowing the Global Fund to carry out its crucial work.

The Fund is replenished every three years by 54 donor states. As the next replenishment phase is approaching, Bland called on all countries to contribute to the 15 billion dollars needed by fall 2013. Two weeks ago the U.S. replenished one third of that amount, which means the fund still needs 10 billion dollars.

Panelists at the discussion suggested a host of alternative funding options, ranging from contributions from new economic powers to the involvement of the private sector and corporate social responsibility (CSR), as well as philanthropy and crowd funding.

“The emerging economies have a huge part to play. We’re working very closely with China, with India and others, to see how they can help,” said Bland.

Significant resources could also be collected from the private sector, leveraging its interest in improving living conditions in malaria-affected areas to the benefit of commerce and tourism.

However, the need for transparency in corporate engagement was stressed, whether it is for profit, credit returns or public image.

Joy Phumaphi, executive secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), called attention to the profound imbalance in malaria rates worldwide: according to WHO figures, the world’s poorest regions are hit hardest by the disease.

“A lot of the tragedies that are man-made globally are driven by inequities…and injustice,” she said, “This disease is one of the biggest inequities that we have currently on the planet.”

The discussion, organised ahead of this year’s World Malaria Day on Apr. 25, was co-hosted by the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy for financing the health MDGs and for malaria and by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), launched in 1998 by the WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank in order to coordinate global efforts in the fight against malaria.

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