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Eliminating malaria could unlock $4tn of additional economic output (Politics Home)

13 July 2015

This article was originally published on Politics Home.

As world leaders meet for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, Malaria Consortium details the compelling case for investment in malaria.

This week Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development, as well as Heads of State and Government will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for The Third International Conference on Financing for Development.  Over the next four days, world leaders will discuss financing for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and setting out the way for the international community to collectively meet these ambitious targets. 

Malaria will be included in the SDGs when they are agreed in September under the health goal of ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Despite it being only one of many other targets and indicators within the new proposed new framework, eliminating malaria offers a unique opportunity to spur on global economic growth and reduce poverty worldwide.

Today, as leaders of the international community gather for the first day of the Conference, two key documents that pave the way for global malaria elimination will be presented at a side event entitled Malaria Financing for a New Era: An Exceptional Case for Investment. The two documents the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016 – 2030 (GTS) and the Action and investment to defeat malaria 2016-2030 (AIM) are authored by the World Health Organisation and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership respectively. They both outline the technical and financial pathway required to continue driving down the burden of malaria to achieve the ambitious elimination targets for 2030 and accelerate action toward a malaria-free world.

Concerted action and investment is shrinking the malaria map and reducing the malaria burden. Since 1998, significant progress has been made in reducing malaria related deaths, with over 100 countries free from malaria, and at least 55 on track to reducing malaria incidence rates by 75 percent by 2016.

The UK Government has played a leading role in these achievements, increasing malaria spending throughout the last Parliament to a total of £536 million in 2013-14. Without this support, the progress made would not close to the level it is today. However, over half a million people still die from this completely preventable and treatable disease. Economically its burden is even greater.

Each year, malaria costs the African continent an estimated US$12 billion in lost productivity, and in some high-burden countries it can account for as much as 40 percent of public health expenditure. Regions that have succeeded in decreasing malaria have seen substantial economic gains, with economic growth more than five times higher than in endemic regions: Less malaria means less newborn, infant and maternal mortality, fewer days missed at school and work, more productive workforces, and stronger economies.

Malaria is one of the ‘best buys’ in global health, guaranteeing a significant return on investment. If the 2030 targets set out by the GTS and AIM are met, more than US$4 trillion of additional economic output would be generated across the 2016-2030 timeframe, producing a global gain of US$270 billion in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

These numbers are impressive and make a compelling case for investment in malaria. However, since 2010, funding levels have stagnated and, in 2013, only half of the US$5.1 billion required to reach the goals of the first Global Malaria Action Plan 2008-2015 was secured.

Experts estimate that the cost of achieving the 2030 malaria goals will be US$100 billion, with a further US$10 billion required for research and development. This is an ambitious amount, but the investment carries a significant return: the potential to save more than 10 million lives, avert nearly three billion cases, and unlock more than US$4 trillion in additional economic output worldwide.

It is crucial that the UK uses its position as a leader in development to sustain and, where possible, increase its financial support eliminating malaria. As we move towards the post-2015 era, it is perhaps even more important to use this role to encourage other countries to step up to the plate. Countries like Germany, Canada and Australia all have a critical role to play in the fight against malaria. In addition, endemic countries must begin mobilising investment at a domestic level alongside other innovative financing mechanisms, including the private sector.

We have the tools to defeat this disease. Now we need the investment to see it through.

Keywords: Advocacy and policy


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