A Measure of Progress in the Fight Against Malaria

April 25, 2014 By Ashley E. (Chandler) Chang

Happy World Malaria Day! Today, we celebrate one of global health’s greatest success stories in the making: the fight to squash malaria. Spin the globe and you’ll find countries rallying together to strengthen prevention and treatment efforts. With the U.S. leading this global effort, the gains made against this parasitic disease are nothing short of extraordinary. And we’ve got results to prove it.

Since 2000, malaria interventions have saved 3.3 million lives and reduced malaria mortality rates by over 50% among children under the age of five.

“Progress is due to partnership,” says Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.), who serves as the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator. It’s also thanks to strong U.S. bipartisan support for global health initiatives focused on preventable and curable diseases like malaria.

A unified approach to pummel this deadly parasite.

After establishing the Millennium Development Goal (MDG #6) to halt and reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015, new and creative ways sprang up to combat this disease.

Public-private partnerships are proving to be “the most effective way to help reach those in need,” and the hallmark of major initiatives, like The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, as well as the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, or PMI.

The NGO community couldn’t agree more.“It is only through strong partnerships,” says Director of PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative David Kaslow, “that the overall battle against this disease will be won.”

Led by USAID, alongside CDC and HHS, PMI collaborates with a whole host of partners, including multilateral and bilateral donors, such as The Global Fund, UNICEF, World Bank, UK’s Department for International Development, in addition to the private sector and civil society.

Intensifying efforts in Africa.

Africa is home to 80% of all malaria cases and its children overwhelmingly make up the majority of the world’s malaria deaths. It’s also where you’ll find PMI’s implementing partners hard at work.

Through PMI, 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers are working with local community members and NGOs to educate “families about the importance of sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets” and more.

There are also serious national security concerns around this moral crisis. This is why the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit has been battling malaria in Africa since 1973. With much of the war being waged in Africa, malaria is something the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, takes very seriously.

AFRICOM is working with eight West African nations through Malaria Day events to “share best practices about how to treat malaria,” explains Navy Captain David Weiss, command surgeon for AFRICOM. It is something that “adversely impacts all of our forces in West Africa” Weiss adds.

Strong bipartisan support to help move the needle

While there aren’t many things both political parties and the White House can agree on, it’s clear that fighting malaria is one of them. Nine years ago, PMI was created by President Bush to direct government resources and expertise, approving $435 million for the Global Fund that same year.

This trend continued through President Bush’s last year in office, when the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund more than doubled. The Obama administration carried the torch, expanding PMI’s strategy over another five-year period, including ramped up resources for The Global Fund.

Today, the bipartisan spirit continues with Malaria Caucuses, chaired by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) on the Senate-side, and by Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in the House.

Both Caucuses “recognize that, though the U.S. has made real progress in saving lives, keeping Americans safe and building allies, it is only with continued support and leadership” that malaria will be defeated.

World Malaria Day demonstrates the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance and is a powerful symbol of America’s core values and our country’s compassion for the neediest. It also serves as a reminder that continued U.S. leadership is needed to truly win the war against malaria.