Malaria Summit appeals to Commonwealth for help

The malaria parasite

The malaria summit was created to coincide with a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this week.

Spearheaded by the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, the leaders warned against complacency in fighting malaria - a disease which kills around half a million people, mainly babies and young children, each year.

The statement noted that Commonwealth and its citizens accounted for more than half of all global malaria cases and deaths, but just one third of the world's population.

During the meeting, President Mutharika called for increased global financing to least developed countries to help less privileged families in those countries develop capacities to fight Malaria.

Many people around the world die of malaria. An experimental new vaccine, Mosquirix, is already being used to protect young children in selected areas of Africa, but developments take time and money - and global funding to combat malaria has plateaued.

It said: "The call for leaders to be "Ready to Beat Malaria at the Malaria Summit" is expected to profile significant commitments from governments, businesses and philanthropists ready to catalyse progress towards a goal of halving malaria".

For the first time in a decade, global cases of malaria are on the rise, prompting concerns over a potential resurgence of the deadly disease.

In London, new donor commitments were led by an additional $1 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $2 billion from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and pharmaceutical companies Glaxo Smith Kline ($250 million) and Novartis ($100 million), Bloomberg News reported.

Such action would prevent 350 million cases and save 650,000 lives, it was claimed. Experts attributed this increase, in part, to flat funding levels for anti-malarial programs. "We move forward or we risk resurgence".

Meanwhile, experts at the pan-African malaria conference, held every 3 to 4 years, warned that a rapid rise in malaria cases in deaths in countries grappling with conflict and starvation could thwart the last 10 years of progress against the disease. The Gates Foundation also pledged £50 million in matching funds against the UK's £100 million commitment to the Global Fund, as the Global Fund makes commitments totalling $2 billion from 46 countries affected by malaria between 2018 and 2020. "We will support and incentivise others to invest in what is needed, from cutting edge research to ensuring access to malaria treatment and prevention for those most at risk".

"If we stand still, the insecticides we use stop working, the drugs stop working because the parasite itself evolves around that, so this is a game where you are either falling behind or getting ahead", Gates told BBC Radio 4 ahead of the summit.

The UK Government has said it will spend £500m a year on malaria over the next three years, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will extend its investments by an additional £700m until 2023.

"Progress against malaria has been one of the most impressive successes in global health in this generation", the United States philanthropist said.

"History has taught us well that when we lift our foot from the accelerator malaria comes back with a vengeance".

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