THE BLOG

Malaria's Fist Pump Moment

25/11/2015 10:08 GMT | Updated 24/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The weekend was a colossal fist pump moment. The UK government has bitten the bullet. It is taking on the ending of a disease that is believed to have killed half of humanity. It has committed to the eradication of malaria - the creation of a world where no mum or dad lives in mortal fear of their child getting bitten by a mosquito.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a new £1billion fund to fight malaria and other infectious diseases, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The announcement of The Ross Fund; named after Sir Ronald Ross who discovered mosquitoes transmit malaria and became Britain's first Nobel Prize winner in 1902, is a big moment for everyone around the world working to save lives from malaria, and here's why: the UK is a leader in global health security, and where the UK leads, others tend to follow. The UK is, for the first time, putting a monetary commitment to accelerating towards eradication - meaning that a world without this deadly disease could one day soon be a reality.

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People look at me like I'm slightly barmy when I suggest this could be our generation's Moon landing moment - but we could end the biggest killer disease in history. The disease that has killed more children than any other. By 2030 if we really kick on we could reduce deaths from malaria to almost zero.

We are still waiting for all the dots to be connected around the details of this new fund but for us here at Malaria No More UK we are really chuffed to hear about this commitment. It sends a positive and powerful signal to other governments around the world that the UK is dedicated to ending this entirely preventable disease that kills a child every minute.

Our policy advisor and eminent voice on malaria elimination Sir Richard Feachem says: "The commitment of Chancellor George Osborne to eradicate malaria "in our lifetimes" is both visionary and achievable. One hundred countries have already eliminated malaria and an additional 35 will be eliminated by 2025. The remainder are making strong progress and can expect to eliminate by 2040. We will then have achieved, by deliberate and purposeful action, a malaria-free world. This will be a major milestone in the 200,000 year history of homo sapiens."

However, let's be clear - while we welcome this new fund as part of the UK's overall commitment to malaria, it is yet to be confirmed how much will be earmarked for malaria. There's no question that current levels of support need to be sustained if we are to achieve our ambition of being the generation to end malaria. We look forward to a further, sizeable multi-year commitment from the UK government to the replenishment of The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and continued bilateral funding to particular countries and malaria programmes. Over the next five years the UK can help ensure that everyone at risk from malaria has access to simple nets that can protect a family for three years (cost £5) and treatment (less than a £1), saving millions of lives.

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As the chancellor witnessed in Uganda in 2007, malaria is a truly horrific disease which hits the most vulnerable hardest: young children and pregnant women in Africa make up the vast majority of needless deaths. During his trip, Osborne pledged Britain's support to end malaria and since that time, the UK has assumed a champion role leading the global fight with truly outstanding results - deaths from malaria have been cut by 60% since 2000.

Our ambition to eradicate malaria will not only save countless lives, it will also make a significant contribution to creating a more prosperous and secure world for us all. As malaria is defeated, trillions of dollars would be created in economic output, not to mention freeing up African health budgets shackled by malaria - which can account for up to 40% of total spend. Investing in malaria delivers outstanding return on investment - 36:1 in fact. This investment to save lives and free up economies will ultimately reduce reliance on international aid budgets.

As Bill Gates said, "Achieving the eradication of malaria and other poverty related infectious diseases will be one of humanity's greatest achievements."

But it is only through committed governments combined with public and private backing that we can reach this goal. We can be the generation to eliminate a disease that has been around since the dawn of time. We can make malaria no more. If you want to join Malaria No More UK in the fight - we'd love to hear from you.