By some accounts, we may currently be living through a once–in-a-century pandemic. Whether or not this turns out to be true, the sheer scale of the global response attests to these being unprecedented times. Within the global health sector and more broadly, companies and organisations are realising that to get through this pandemic, they must adapt and innovate. This is clearly demonstrated in two vital areas that will have a major influence on when life things can start to return to normal — funding to fight the pandemic, and the measures being developed to defeat it.
First, funding. Most governments have provided domestic funding in response to the pandemic and, as expected, so have many of the largest international donors. The Asian Development Bank has pledged $20 billion to support the needs of its ii, while the Global Fund announced a new response mechanism that increases available funding to $1 billion, which will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on programmes tackling HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Perhaps more surprising are the contributions of every day businesses with no previous involvement in global health. Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has downed tools and committed $8.5 million to global COVID-19 response efforts;iv and TikTok, the dance mash up joy of tweens the world over, has pledged $250 million to support frontline workers and communities most affected by the pandemic.
Second, the measures that might beat the pandemic and enable economies to reopen. Over the past couple of months, we have seen incredible levels of collaboration from a range of organisations racing to achieve this goal. One particularly innovative example is the COVID-19 Plasma Alliance. Comprising of multiple companies specialising in plasma, an alliance has been rapidly formed to accelerate and scale up the production of hyperimmune globulin, a potential treatment for COVID-19. To reach the maximum amount of potential plasma donors, they have created a ‘Plasma Bot’ that assesses the eligibility of individuals over social media and other internet channels.
How Malaria Consortium is adapting
In all of these examples, a common trend is adapting at pace. Malaria Consortium is no different. For years we have been at the forefront of tackling devastating diseases like malaria, pneumonia and dengue through our innovative programmes. We work closely with the governments of low and middle income countries in Africa and Asia to strengthen health systems and support the delivery of essential health services. One life saving programme that cannot be interrupted is our flagship seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) programme, which has prevented millions of cases of malaria in children under five in the Sahel region. Our SMC team has established extensive enhanced safety and infection prevention contingency measures, so that our programme can be adapted to different levels of COVID-19 risk to ensure continuity and minimal disruption. We are applying the same innovative thinking to all of our work so that we can continue to advocate for the continuation of essential health services and deliver life-saving treatments that protect the most vulnerable, while making every effort to support the global effort to beat this pandemic.
Jamie Power is Policy and Advocacy Manager at Malaria Consortium