Twenty two years after the world last launched a global strategy to tackle malaria that was backed by the world's highest health policy setting body - the World Health Assembly - this week we have a major new plan that maps out how in the next 15 years we will close in on the goal of a malaria free world. Back in 1993, despite the launch of the Global Strategy for malaria, what followed was a decade that saw a worsening of the malaria situation globally, underscored by a severe lack of funding and resources. Not until the mid-2000s did the malaria community begin to see a marked increase in commitment and resources. Momentum that continued not least in the UK, where the government, alive to the possibility of huge gains against malaria and an excellent return on investment for child mortality, education and economies, has tripled its malaria funding since 2008. What followed were some of the most impressive gains you could hope to see in global health. Child deaths from malaria halved in the space of under 15 years, and more than 4 million lives were saved (some 1,700 every day). The new Global Technical Strategy (GTS)
just endorsed at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, seeks to take the malaria campaign to the goal of near zero deaths - in a clear, considered and concise plan.
So what are these targets and how do we get to them? The ultimate aim is to see the reduction of malaria deaths by 90% by 2030. An aspirational but also achievable goal for the next 15 years. This document is not written by wishful thinkers but the world's leading malarial scientists and representatives of countries affected by malaria - people who understand the perils of over-claiming. Underpinning the various targets are the foundations for helping us to get there - what are called the three pillars:
- Ensuring everyone has access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment (mosquito nets that cost £5 to buy, deliver and hang; tests costing 50p; and life-saving treatment costing £1)
- Efforts to eliminate (end the disease in country after country as has just happened in Sri Lanka) be intensified
- Make malaria surveillance - currently weakest in countries with the highest malaria burden - a core and integral part of country approaches.
Combined with getting the most out of innovation and expanding malaria research, as well as seeking to strengthen the political and financial commitment, this is a comprehensive and compelling plan.
And what are the finances and resources that will be needed to action this plan? We need to at least double funding by 2020 from current levels. That's a big ask but this is a campaign that has delivered extraordinary results with deaths halved in 15 years and which has a clear plan to get close to ending deaths from one of the biggest killer diseases in history in just another 15 years. We look to the UK, US and other major donor countries to at least commit to sustaining their current levels of funding, as well as look to new donors and to developing countries to significantly step up their commitments. This combination of donor and domestic funding is the right one to confront and defeat this global public health issue.
Our generation can be proud of what is being achieved across global development - and the malaria fight is the poster child for what has been done and what could be. In the first half of the twenty first century there is the possibility of the eradication of the biggest disease in human history.
If sufficiently funded, and if political commitment is maintained and strengthened, this new plan will take us close to the vision of a world free of malaria. A world where we would no longer lose a child to this preventable and curable disease every minute. Where we would no longer see families broken and trapped in a vicious cycle of ill health, lost opportunities and poverty. Where African economies wouldn't lose more than £8billion every year. Where we would see healthier children able to go to school, survive and thrive. That's a world which I think we can all agree would be a far better place. And now there's a clear plan to get there.