London, UK - “Malaria Consortium welcomes the recommitment from the UK Government to spend £500m a year to fight malaria,” said Chief Executive, Charles Nelson, following the announcement today by the UK Chancellor, George Osborne and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The UK has shown strong leadership in global health and malaria over the past decade and it is encouraging to see this continue."
Today’s announcement comes two months after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK government announced a new partnership to fight malaria. The Ross Fund — named after Sir Ronald Ross, the British scientist who won a Nobel Prize in 1902 for proving that mosquitoes transmit malaria – was set up in November 2015 to invest in global health research to support the fight against the disease as well as other neglected and emerging infectious illnesses. In addition to the UK Government’s pledge, the Gates Foundation has committed a $200 million spend for 2016, with more contributions to follow. In total, this commitment will cover a five-year £3 billion budget.
According to the World Health Organization, there were 438,000 malaria deaths in 2015. Most were children under five years, and the majority of them were in Africa. Strong efforts to control the disease have meant significant progress in the last 15 years, but this is being threatened by the spread of resistance to antimalarial drugs and to insecticide.
Malaria Consortium Development Director, Dr James Tibenderana, welcomed the news but also urged caution. “There is still a dramatic shortfall in the activities and consequent funding required to see an end to this disease and it is now crucial that we see other countries and donors following the UK and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lead. Otherwise this devastating disease has previously demonstrated that it will resurge with a vengeance.”
In addition to research, other life-saving approaches are needed, including health system strengthening, capacity building, harmonisation of local and international partners’ efforts and improved malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment. “Otherwise we may never see an end to this devastating disease,” concluded Dr James Tibenderana.