By Laura Newman, MACEPA Senior Communications Associate
What a difference four years can make. During the second day of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Malaria Summit, the world’s leading malaria authorities made a strong, united call to eliminate malaria, with the long-term goal of eradication. Progress in fighting the disease has been made in leaps and bounds during the last few years, giving the global community the confidence that these ambitious goals – first raised to a uncertain audience at the inaugural Malaria Summit in 2007 – can be achieved.
To many of these speakers, the idea of eliminating malaria is not just a goal – it is an obligation. Efforts to control the disease have greatly reduced malaria illnesses and deaths, but as long as the malaria parasite still exists, so does the threat that the disease may resurge. As Bill Gates said earlier in the day about the fight against malaria, “If you stop halfway, you don’t get half the benefit; you could end up with zero percent of the benefit. The progress counts only if we keep it going.”
This strong message of support for eradication speaks not just to the ability of the global community to reach consensus, but to the strength and maturity of the partnership itself. As Robert Newman, Director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said: “We have a changed mindset – we can achieve near-zero deaths from malaria.” With new tools and weapons in our arsenal, most notably the ongoing development of the RTS,S malaria vaccine that was announced Tuesday to be around 50% effective in young children, this goal seems more in reach than ever.
Eradication is understood to be a long-term goal, and maintaining political commitment and financing over the years will be a challenge. Many speakers highlighted the need to set and achieve short-term interim goals, to help the global community benchmark high-profile progress towards elimination. Ongoing support for the Global Fund and maintaining national investments in global health were also highlighted as a key priorities. Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State, Department for International Development, United Kingdom, summed it up well when he said: “We need everyone standing by their commitments, and we need results.”