13 Mar Malaria No More UK makes the case for urgent action with Professor Jeffrey Sachs
13th March 2013: 150 guests from the worlds of politics, economics, global health and entertainment gathered last night to highlight UK action on malaria. The reception at House of Lords was organised by Malaria No More UK and hosted by the Rt Hon Baroness Hayman GBE.
Local, global and personal perspectives were shared from key note speakers including world renowned development and economics expert Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Baroness Northover, Government Spokesperson in the House of Lords on International Development and British mum Jo Yirrell, whose own story inspired a pivotal character in ‘Mary & Martha’ the recent film by Richard Curtis.
The event comes at a crucial moment in the global malaria fight: There has been historic progress in saving lives, with deaths from malaria dramatically cut by 26% since 20001. Today, the world is at a tipping point with the opportunity to end over 540,0002 child deaths from malaria every year and maintain the vital momentum towards defeating the disease entirely.
Malaria has captured the hearts and minds of the British public, thanks to campaigns led by charities including Malaria No More UK and Comic Relief and most recently through the BBC primetime premiere of Mary and Martha on 1st March. According to Malaria No More UK’s annual survey, public perceptions of malaria as a serious issue in Africa has soared from 52%-72% (2009-2012), showing the groundswell of support to end deaths from malaria, a preventable disease that claims the life of a child every minute3.
The UK has prioritised the malaria fight: all three major UK political parties made a commitment to tackle malaria as part of their 2010 manifestos a pledge that has been carried through by the Coalition Government. Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated this commitment saying: “Over 1,500 children die every day from this preventable and curable disease, leaving behind thousands of grieving parents. Malaria keeps people from work and children from school in communities and countries struggling to work their way out of poverty. I am proud that malaria remains a priority for the UK Government. We have seen progress, with deaths in Africa down by a third since 2000, but efforts must be sustained if we are to achieve our goals. We are committed to helping to halve malaria deaths in at least ten of the most affected countries by 2015, thereby saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”
The UK is just weeks away from realising its commitment to give 0.7% of gross national income to overseas development assistance and malaria is a leading example of the transforming impact this aid can make. Fighting malaria not only saves lives of the most vulnerable, it also helps boost economic growth. The disease can cost households over 25% over their annual income and Professor Sachs has shown that malaria was crippling the long-term growth of African economies. With the disease coming increasingly under control, and progress in many other areas as well, African economic growth is rising to robust rates. Fighting malaria also delivers value for money, it costs as little as £1 to treat a child with malaria and help save a life. Malaria interventions also deliver proven results, with mosquito nets cutting malaria cases in children by half and deaths by over 20%.
Professor Sachs says: “Despite the odds and the sceptics, Africa has made tremendous progress in malaria control in the last 10 years. Malaria deaths in Africa are down by at least one third, a truly historic achievement. Now, let’s help Africa to finish the job in controlling this ancient scourge. To do so, Africa will need to ramp up the coverage of Community Health Workers, rapid diagnostic tests, long-lasting insecticide- treated bed-nets, and malaria medicines to all who need them. With Africa’s lead and our support, this can be the generation that brings malaria decisively under control.”
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, has spoken out for the first time on malaria saying: “Africa sees a child die every minute from malaria and this terrible disease is estimated to cost the African economy $12 billion. We need to do everything we can to break the cycle of this disease so that countries can develop their economies and support themselves”. Greening shared new results from Mozambique – one of the countries featured in Mary & Martha where it is estimated that 42% of deaths in children under five are from malaria. “In Mozambique UK support has already led to a 40 per cent fall in malaria related deaths and hospital admissions in areas we support. And the five million treated bed nets we are providing to Ugandan families will help to dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria.”
British mother Jo Yirrell tragically lost her 20 year old son, Harry, to malaria in 2005. He returned home from Ghana having unknowingly contracted the deadliest strain of malaria and after 10 days fighting for his life, he died. Jo has channelled her grief into raising awareness about malaria and is a Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK. Jo says: ‘It is not right that families in Africa pay the ultimate price for malaria with their lives. As a Brit, I am immensely proud of what the UK is doing to fight malaria, no parent anywhere should lose their child to a disease we can prevent and costs £1 to treat. I hope Mums and Dads and families across the country will be inspired by our vision to make malaria no more. This is one disease we really can beat if we all work together”.
The recent malaria gains are now under threat and risk being undone because international funding is in danger of declining. Vital decisions will be taken in the coming months relating to UK and global support for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, which exists to help countries strengthen their capacity to fight their biggest health challenges. The Global Fund represents over half of all international malaria financing as well as critical support for HIV and TB and it has already saved nine million lives from these three diseases4. Its continued financing will save and protect the lives of millions more.
Heather Rabbatts, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Malaria No More UK says: “We welcome the UK’s commitment to fighting malaria. If funds for malaria prevention and treatment fall off now, we risk squandering the huge progress that we have made against this deadly disease. The UK’s public and political leadership will determine the future course of the malaria fight. We urge renewed impetus towards making malaria no more a reality in our lifetimes.”
Note to Editors: For more information and interviews with Heather Rabbatts or Jo Yirrell contact Roz Hobley: 07966 191124 / E firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Malaria No More UK: Malaria No More UK is working hard to end malaria deaths as fast as possible. The charity saves lives through high-impact awareness and fundraising campaigns and by making strategic investments in Africa where over 90% of all malaria deaths occur.
Posted with permission of Malaria No More UK