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The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for UK to prioritise global health (Politics Home)

25 September 2015

This article was originally published on Politics Home.

As the UN General Assembly meets to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Malaria Consortium Chief Executive Charles Nelson calls upon the UK to work to its strengths and prioritise global health.

Welcoming the new international goals, which replace the Millennium Development Goals, Mr Nelson said: “The SDGs will provide the framework for the next fifteen years of development efforts, as we work to eradicate poverty, avert climate change and ensure healthy lives for all.

“However, the SDGs will only be truly transformational if their ambitious targets are matched by strong financial and political commitments, from donor countries and developing countries alike.”

The UK is already at the forefront of international development and is the only G7 country committed to spending 0.7 percent of GNI on aid. Debates in both chambers of Parliament this month further demonstrated the strength of cross-party support for international development. It is critical that this financial and political commitment is sustained.

Beyond its financial contribution, the UK has an important role to play in helping national governments develop strong plans for implementing the SDGs in their countries, leveraging larger contributions from other donor countries, and supporting the transition to greater domestic financing of development.

While the SDGs need to be viewed as interconnected and interdependent goals, relying on the realisation of each other for their success and necessitating a multi-sectoral approach, there is benefit to donor countries specialising in certain areas. “We are not going to be able to support everything, and health is clearly one of the UK’s areas of expertise,” said Mr Nelson in a recent interview for Politics Home. “DFID has great experience in that and we have excellent resources in the NHS which can be brought to bear on the task of building strong health systems around the world.”

Within global health, the UK’s record on combating diseases such as malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is particularly strong. UK spending on malaria control and prevention alone reached £536 million by 2014-15, second only to the US in terms of donor country commitments, and has contributed to the recently announced 60 percent reduction in malaria mortality since 2000. However, there is still a long way to go before we defeat malaria, and we face substantial challenges, such as the spread of resistance to drugs and insecticides.

Reasons for the UK to prioritise disease control interventions include:

  • Malaria and NTD prevention and treatment are among the most cost-effective public health interventions.
  • If global malaria targets are achieved by 2030, it is estimated that more than 10 million lives will be saved and over US$4 trillion of additional economic output generated.
  • Tackling these diseases will bring greater productivity and growth, reduce worker and child absenteeism and household poverty, increase equity and women’s empowerment, and make health systems stronger. Failure could see the disease resurge, with increased malaria deaths and lost opportunities for progress and development.
  • Delivering malaria and NTD interventions is essential for achieving universal health coverage, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for those of all ages, particularly for vulnerable and marginalised populations.
  • Since malaria and NTDs disproportionately affect the poorest households, defeating these diseases will free vulnerable communities from the cycle of sickness, suffering and poverty.
  • Scaling up malaria and NTD control contributes strongly to reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
  • Interventions targeted at malaria and NTDs also provide the opportunity to treat childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and acute malnutrition.

It is therefore crucial that the UK sustains its leading role in the fight against malaria into the SDG era.  “I personally believe many hundreds of thousands or millions will die from malaria as a consequence if we don’t keep going,” said Mr Nelson. “And we must, because we can beat malaria.”

If you have any questions regarding this, please contact Michelle Davis: [email protected] or 0207 549 0320

Keywords: Advocacy and policy


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