I was always proud of my eldest son Harry, never more so than when he swapped working at a building site in Leighton Buzzard to volunteer in a small village in Ghana. He went to Africa aged 20 where he helped build a school and taught children sport. He also contracted the most deadly strain of malaria - having given away his antimalarials to some of the children who he thought needed them more than he did - and three weeks after his return died from this devastating disease.
Following his death, I got involved with the campaign to make malaria no more. Having discovered that the world's oldest disease still robs a parent of their child every two minutes - despite treatment costing less than the price of a cup of tea - I wanted to try and play a small part in what is a very big job. With half the world at risk of malaria, and nearly half a million deaths every year (mostly children under five and pregnant mothers), that task is immense. But efforts globally to tackle malaria in the last 15 years - including increased UK aid to help fight the disease - have delivered something that many might have thought impossible. Deaths from malaria have more than halved, saving over 6 million lives - 5.9 million of which are children under five. When you consider that just over 15 years ago malaria was the leading cause of death of children in Sub-Saharan Africa, if that isn't something we should be #ProudOfAid of I don't know what is. And something that I hope will feature in a debate taking place in Parliament on Monday (13th June) on the UK's commitment to 0.7% of the country's income being spent on helping others.
Whilst there are some sweeping attacks on aid, the undisputable evidence when it comes to malaria is that aid does and is working. How else can you explain the huge progress in saving lives and that since 2000, 102 of the 106 countries with malaria transmission have reversed the incidences of both cases and deaths from this disease? It's no coincide that these 15 years of amazing progress came at a time when many donors, including the UK and malaria-affected countries, increased their investment in fighting malaria. This funding has helped to deliver over 1 billion mosquito nets in Africa, provide quick and effective tests, and treatment that costs less than £1 to save a life. UK aid has also supported the research and development by scientists who are developing cutting edge technologies and treatments to beat this disease. So as the debate takes place, I have to ask myself, could we really be proud of ending our international commitment to spend just 7p of every £10 of our national wealth on aid? Aid that has helped bring us closer to a world free of malaria than we have ever been.
I've been privileged as part of the campaign to end malaria to see first-hand it's not a case of aid wasted, but a case of aid working. And delivering some of the best value for money. For every pound spent on malaria prevention and treatment delivers £36 in social and economic benefits. That translates to every £5 mosquito net returning £180 to the economy. I may not be a business women but I know value when I see it. And how valuable are those lives lost to a totally preventable and treatable disease. That's why I'll always be proud of my son for wanting to help a small community in Africa, proud of the amazing progress in ending malaria, and #ProudOfAid.
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