This weekend it's out with the old and in with the new as we welcome a new era for international development, including a target to eradicate malaria once and for all.
UN Member States will gather at the UN Sustainable Development Summit (25-27 September) in New York to formally adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs, also referred to as 'Global Goals', will be used to shape political agendas and policies over the next 15 years in order to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change on a global scale. Check out the Project Everyone campaign spearheaded by UK writer and director Richard Curtis which aims to share the Global Goals with 7 billion people in 7 days - the message is simple: the more people that know about the goals, the more we can hold leaders accountable to achieving them.
So what do these new goals mean for the fight against malaria?
Malaria falls under Goal 3 "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" - with a target of ending the malaria epidemic by 2030.
Back in 2000, at the time of the Millennium Summit that led to the MDGs being agreed, we were losing the battle against malaria. 839,000 people, mostly children, were dying every year from a disease that costs less than £1 to treat. But now, 15 years on, as a result of a comprehensive international effort we are starting to tame this deadly disease: malaria deaths have reduced by a whopping 60% and more than six million lives have been saved.
As Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week at an event in UK Parliament, "Today, global malaria control ranks as one of the most successful stories in public health since the start of the century." Malaria control is a shining example and prototype for sustainable development. Not only does it save lives but it unlocks a huge amount of social and economic potential; for every £1 invested in malaria prevention, £36 is returned back into society. For me malaria control is a no brainer. If we continue on the current trajectory, we can meet the 2030 malaria target and ultimately be the generation to beat malaria.
I've seen for myself how tackling this disease will also help in attaining other SDGs - by increasing school attendance (malaria is responsible for nearly half of all school absenteeism in some parts of Africa), improving maternal and child heath, contributing to tackling poverty through increased economic productivity (having to treat a child for malaria can cost a family 25% of their annual income), and increasing gender equality (reducing the burden of caring for ill children, and the disease is particularly lethal for pregnant women).
How can we make it happen? Malaria control is unique in that we already have a global strategy and action plan in place led by the WHO and Roll Back Malaria, to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 90% by 2030. But this will only materialise if countries commit to sustaining current levels of funding, and new donors step up their commitment too. We particularly look to the UK, US and other major donors to malaria to continue to show great leadership - as we need to double funding by 2020.
History has shown us that if we take our foot off the accelerator now, we are in real danger of sliding back in time and undoing all of the vital progress to date. Ten years of progress against malaria can be lost in one year of resurgence if our will starts to falter.
Malaria has plagued mankind for more than 200,000 years - crippling economies, crushing communities and causing endless heartache. The only reason it won't get sorted out in the next 15 years is because it kills young children and pregnant women in the poorest countries, those with least voice. Let's get the word out that tackling malaria is a rock-solid investment and make sure that every politician, decision maker, business leader and philanthropist knows it and invests in it. Help us spread the word and get involved in the fight to #DefeatMalaria by sharing these messages with your friends, family and colleagues.
The battle against malaria is well under way, but we have to go the distance to win the war.