This article was originally published on Politics Home.
As we mark World Malaria Day on the 25 April, Malaria Consortium calls on the UK to place strengthening disease surveillance systems to find and treat every malaria case at the centre of the Ross Fund.
World Malaria Day this year marks the first in a new era of international development. Malaria control was one of the great successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – deaths have fallen by 60 percent since 2000 and 33 countries are now approaching elimination. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which succeed the MDGs, present new opportunities for making further progress in the fight against malaria, but also pose significant challenges.
With 17 goals rather than eight, there will be greater competition for resources under the SDGs, meaning malaria will not benefit from such a concentration of efforts. However, the level of resources dedicated to malaria must, at a minimum, be sustained and ideally increased to ensure recent progress is built upon rather than lost. It has been estimated that in order to achieve the new goal of reducing malaria cases and deaths by 90 percent by 2030, malaria funding will need to be more than doubled and then more than tripled. These increased resources are needed to continue scaling up coverage of preventive measures, such as insecticide treated nets, and achieving universal diagnosis and treatment of malaria cases.
In this context, the UK Government’s recent re-commitment to spend £500 million on malaria annually for the next five years is both crucial and commendable. Malaria Consortium is pleased to see the UK continuing to play a leading role in international efforts to defeat malaria. In the coming months we hope to see UK leadership demonstrated once again through a strong replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – the international funding organisation that has been so pivotal in driving progress against malaria. To bridge the considerable funding gap, however, the UK’s commitment will have to be matched by other donor countries, as well as domestic sources – both public and private. We urge the UK to make use of its prominent position to encourage the widest possible range of stakeholders contribute to ending malaria.
The UK Government is committing further resources to combat malaria through the Ross Fund –named after Sir Ronald Ross, the first ever British Nobel Laureate who was recognised for his discovery that mosquitoes transmit malaria. This new funding will support efforts to develop, test and deliver a range of new products to help combat the world’s most serious diseases, including malaria, in developing countries.
One of the major challenges facing countries as the malaria burden falls and they approach elimination of the disease, is detecting, correctly treating and responding to every last case. Effective surveillance systems are crucial to this. They are also vital for identifying potential disease resurgence, or outbreaks of other diseases, such as Ebola and zika, so that a timely response can be launched. Improving disease surveillance systems have the added bonus of strengthening the wider health system and providing timely, accurate data that can inform healthcare planning.
The Ross Fund can contribute to improving surveillance systems by supporting research into how to build an effective system, and then test these in the real world. There is also an important role for the UK to play in working with endemic countries to develop surveillance systems that fit their own unique context, and ensuring that they are connected to both the wider health system and international disease response mechanisms.
Malaria Consortium is urging the UK to put disease surveillance at the centre of their Ross Fund strategy. Surveillance is pivotal to achieving malaria elimination and a core pillar of the Global Technical Strategy for malaria elimination. It is our hope that by securing UK support for improving surveillance systems through the Ross Fund that it will help turn the 2030 targets into achievements.