Malaria funding has increased nearly ten-fold in the last decade and produced an incredible return on investment.
Deaths from malaria have decreased by 33 percent in the African regions hardest hit by this disease; three countries have eliminated malaria and nearly 30 have made progress towards the same ambitious goal, according to the World Health Organization’s annual report on malaria released on December 13.
Now more than any other time, the possibility of ending malaria is within reach.
But these dramatic gains are in jeopardy. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides two-thirds of the global financing for efforts to combat malaria, is facing a financial crisis due to unfulfilled donor commitments.
This shortfall means that the Global Fund will be unable to award new grants until 2014—and that the progress we achieved over the past decade may be lost if US, European, and Japanese donors don’t come through on their financial commitments.
While the Global Fund has been in the news recently for its efforts to reassess and improve its granting processes, we know without a doubt that it works. The success stories are many, and they overwhelmingly eclipse any outlying issues that have recently come to light.
Consider Senegal. The country was one of the first to receive the Fund’s support. In 2005, however, its grant was revoked because it had not produced results. The country’s malaria program underwent a major reorganization, and Senegal was again awarded funding in 2006.
In just one year, malaria cases dropped by more than 40 percent. Countrywide, deaths in children (from all causes) were reduced by 30 percent.<
In Global Fund recipient countries, like Senegal, the funding shortfall will be an incredible blow to the hard-won progress that has been made in controlling malaria. Dire financial circumstances will force governments to put plans for expanding their fight against malaria on hold until the Fund’s resource gap is filled. Barely sustaining programs at current levels will halt momentum.
This is tantamount to failure in the fight against malaria.
A fully resourced Global Fund is imperative to build upon past success and move countries forward toward eliminating malaria. No other organization has the same power to profoundly shape the malaria landscape and reduce the number of malaria-related deaths and illnesses in the coming years.
A chorus of voices is needed to ensure donors deliver on their commitments to the Global Fund. Everyone needs to do their part—from individuals to the organizations working in the US, Europe, and on the ground in the hardest hit regions—to spur government action.
The end of malaria is in sight. Success will ultimately be measured in the number of lives saved.