Bill and Melinda Gates applaud progress against malaria

Bill Gates

Three hundred leading malaria scientists, global health leaders, policymakers, government officials and advocates gathered on Tuesday at the Malaria Forum in Seattle, US, to discuss great strides in malaria control and address challenges that are impacting the long-term goal of eradication.

“We have seen tremendous success in the control of malaria, thanks to an infusion of resources, innovation, and political will,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Worldwide, malaria deaths are down 20 per cent since 2000,” the Foundation said, according to a statement from the Foundation received in Accra.

It said more than one million African children had been saved from malaria since 2000.

New tools such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets and artemisinin-based combination treatments (ACTs)” – along with prevention during pregnancy and indoor residual spraying – have made this recent progress possible.

The statement said a surge of financial and political commitments from endemic countries, donor governments, non-governmental organisations, private companies, and individuals sparked a decade of scientific advancement and the development of lifesaving tools that fought malaria.

“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the US President’s Malaria Initiative and the World Bank’s Malaria Booster Programme transformed the funding landscape and contributed significantly to successes in malaria control.”

Mrs Gates congratulated the forum participants and urged them to maintain momentum or recent gains could be lost.

“What matters is our staying power,” Mrs Gates added, “We need to keep on seizing the opportunity to make new progress against malaria every single day.”

Mr Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged the malaria community to be “smarter, faster, and more ambitious”.

“If we think big, bring more partners into the fold, and take smart risks, we will invent entirely new tools – powerful ways of fighting malaria that don’t exist now,” explained Mr Gates.

“This is the kind of innovation that will enable us to plan for the eventual eradication of malaria.”

When Mr and Mrs Gates first called on the global community to chart a course for the long-term eradication of malaria at the Malaria Forum four years ago, the world took notice.

Mr Gates reaffirmed the Foundation’s commitment to eradication, urging public and private partners to increase their investments.

“Eradication is an ambitious goal—and a long-term goal. It is also a goal to which we remain 100 per cent committed,” added Mr Gates. “It will take leadership, innovation, and money to plan for malaria’s eventual eradication.”

The first interim results from phase III trials of the RTS,S vaccine was announced on Tuesday, October 18, at the forum.

Among five to 17-month-old children, the vaccine prevented clinical malaria in 56 per cent of trial participants over a period of a year. It prevented severe malaria in 47 per cent.

Mr Gates deemed this discovery a “huge milestone” in the fight against malaria, as RTS,S is the first vaccine against a parasitic disease.

“First, this is proof that it is possible to create a vaccine that is effective against malaria,” explained Mr Gates. “Second, if further results show that the effectiveness of RTS,S does not wane over time it has the potential to protect millions of children and save thousands of lives.”

Work is already underway to develop the next generation of vaccines that would provide greater and longer lasting protection and would be even more effective in stopping malaria transmission.

The reality in much of Africa remains grim. A child dies of malaria every 45 seconds in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the latest reports from 2009, children under-five accounted for 85 per cent of the nearly 800,000 malaria deaths. Malaria also bears a heavy burden on Africa’s global economies, costing the continent an estimated $12 billion annually in lost productivity.

“The parasite has been killing children and sapping the strength of whole populations for tens of thousands of years,” added Mr Gates.

“Now, we can chart a course to end it.”

Source: GNA

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