Despite there being a clear link between malaria investment and death prevention, funding of programs to fight the disease remains far too short to fulfill Millennium Development Goals and other global commitments and even threatens the progress made to date, according to a network of more than 500 anti-malaria groups.
"Clearly, the increase in global malaria investments in recent years is now paying off with a substantial dividend of lives saved," said Christian humanitarian organization World Vision global health policy adviser Craig Jaggers after the release of a new report linking funding increases in the global fight against malaria to a drop in deaths from the disease.
"Using effective, low-cost solutions, tens of thousands of lives are being saved each year from malaria," added Jaggers.
On Thursday, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership released the "Malaria Funding and Resource Utilization" report, which reveals how current investment in malaria control is saving lives and providing far-reaching benefits for countries affected by the disease.
While the report highlighted considerable progress in countries working to rapidly scale up proven malaria control interventions, it also pointed out that without sustained and predictable funding, the significant contribution of malaria control toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be reversed.
"Investment in malaria control is having a profound effect on health and the MDGs, especially on the health of women and children in Africa," said RBM Executive Director Awa Marie Coll-Seck. "This investment must continue. Lives saved today must not be replaced by lives lost tomorrow. We have come too far-there is so much momentum. We must not allow the clock to be turned back."
Although the incidence of malaria has been dropping over recent years, the disease still claims approximately 860,000 lives each year, mainly women and children in Africa.
Each day, the disease kills more than 2,000 children under age five, making it a leading cause of death for young children in Africa and other regions. The disease, however, can be prevented and treated with inexpensive, proven interventions such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and access to anti-malarial drugs.
Unfortunately, the less than $2 billion now committed annually is said to represent only a third of the global need.
With World Malaria Day just weeks away, World Vision, a member of the RBM partnership, cautions that unless donor governments increase funding and the United States meets the commitments signed into law under its Global AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria bill in 2008, programs will fall far short of the 2010 targets of halving malaria deaths and ensuring universal coverage with insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), and will fail to reach the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
"Accelerating funding will help ensure universal coverage of malaria interventions and bring us one step closer to ending child deaths from this entirely preventable disease," added Jaggers.
Presently, World Vision is working in 62 malaria-endemic countries – 23 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa – with experience in local communities and tens of thousands of trained volunteer caregivers who can assist with malaria interventions on the frontlines.
In a statement coinciding with the release of RBM's report, World Vision said it concurs with the assessment of the researchers and analysts who authored the study, the first in the Progress and Impact Series of reports charting progress towards the goal of eliminating the disease and its death toll.
Authors of the report include the World Health Organization, UNICEF and international non-profit group PATH.
In announcing the report's release, RBM highlighted the upcoming replenishment session of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in October 2010, during which governments will make financial pledges for 2011–2013 – "a crucial period that will determine whether the health-related MDGs can be reached by 2015," according to the anti-malaria partnership.
"2010 is a key year for donors to decide if the health-related MDGs can be met," remarked Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine.
Since 2003, the Global Fund has provided two-thirds of all malaria control financing and, by the end of 2009, had supported programs that distributed 104 million mosquito nets and treated 108 million cases of malaria in accordance with national treatment guidelines.
Most of Global Fund's funding is directed at Africa, where 90 percent of global malaria deaths occur.
At an initial Replenishment review meeting to be held in the Hague on March 24, the Global Fund will be presenting three resource scenarios for consideration to donors, each with an indication of the results that could be expected in terms of achievements on the ground at the end of the replenishment period. The different scenarios range from $13 to 20 billion (USD) for the three-year period.