THE BLOG

Time for the Big Push to Defeat Malaria

05/21/2013 10:39 am ET | Updated Jul 21, 2013
AP

Moments of historic greatness are rarely realized by a single actor. Instead, they require the work of partners, with a sense of shared responsibility and coordinated action. The Big Push to defeat malaria is no different. In the past 10 years, partners working together have reversed malaria's spread and prevented millions of deaths, mostly of children under the age of five. Yet even with all that progress, malaria still claims a child's life every minute. So we have more work to do. Science has given us the tools to defeat this disease. We will achieve greatness by getting it done.

Today we have insecticide-treated nets rather than just regular nets that last longer, significantly reducing costs. There are new drugs to tackle resistant strands and rapid diagnostic tests that allow us to identify kids that do and don't have malaria. We are moving in the right direction. Global malaria mortality rates have dropped by 26 percent and half of the malaria endemic countries are on track to meeting the global target of reducing malaria case incidence by 75 percent by 2015.

As a global community, our fates are often more intertwined than we like to imagine. Controlling malaria isn't only a prospect of preventing needless deaths, it is an economic imperative. Entrepreneurs, farmers and traders who are at home sick themselves or with their kids cost Africa an estimated $12 billion a year in productivity. Defeating malaria is one of the first steps we can take to speed up Africa-driven economic growth.

Later this year, the international community will gather to pledge money to the Global Fund for the next three years. In April, the Global Fund requested $15 billion from donors as an investment towards the historical opportunity of defeating these diseases. It's the kind of investment where the return will be measured in lives saved, and the increased productivity of developing countries no longer burdened by deaths from mosquito bites.

Essential to maximizing these investments, African leaders will continue to demonstrate their own commitment to national health programs both financially and with human resources. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance, a consortium of 49 leaders from the continent, tracks country progress in preventing and treating the disease, with government leaders holding one another accountable to keep malaria a priority, while working towards the goal of near zero deaths by the end of 2015.

With less than 1,000 days until the clock runs out on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, our resolve will be tested both before and after the zero hour. Meeting the health related MDGs would no doubt be a great accomplishment for our global brothers and sisters, but history will judge us by whether or not we fill our war chest and use our proven strategies and tools to defeat these diseases. As partners in this fight, this is our shared opportunity and responsibility.