09 Sep UK spending on malaria focussed on cost effective solutions
Mum-to-be Hamu Haruna is one the millions of Ghanaians able to sleep protected by a mosquito net thanks to the over 12 million nets donated and distributed through the partnership supported by DFID, the Global Fund, US and Ghanaian Governments and Malaria No More UK
We welcome today’s National Audit Office Report which highlights the value and importance of UK aid spending on malaria and finds malaria spending by the Department for International Development (DFID) focused on cost effective solutions.
This independent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) is both insightful and timely, as DFID is now halfway through scaling up efforts to achieve its laudable goal of helping at least halve malaria deaths in 10 or more countries by 2015.
The report highlights the immense value that DFID brings to the global effort to fight malaria, not just because of the significant financial backing they provide, but also for their leadership, expertise and guidance which is valued at a global and local level by malaria endemic countries, other donor governments and multilateral partners like the World Health Organisation.
Our Policy Advisor Alan Court, Senior Advisor to the UN Secretary General’s Special Ambassador for Malaria and Financing the Health MDGs, says: “For those of us who have witnessed DFID’s thoughtful approach to taking on malaria, it comes as no surprise to see the NAO reinforce what a good investment choice this is. DFID’s increasing spend over the next few years will have a huge impact, not just in cutting unnecessary malaria deaths, but also in improving maternal and child survival and removing some of the barriers to development and productivity that will help countries achieve their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of 2015.”
The NAO reports malaria interventions are cost-effective according to international standards for the number of “healthy life years” they save for the money: with the average for malaria solutions selected by DFID (such as insecticide treated nets, medicines and preventative treatment for pregnant women and young children) costing less than 20% of the World Bank’s benchmark definition of health cost-effectiveness.
The report also found that the “Department’s bilateral programmes are well chosen”, and highlights the ongoing effort needed to continue to increase efficiency, cost-effectiveness and leveraging of DFID’s engagement to encourage others to support the global malaria campaign. The NAO emphasised the importance of a number of areas of work that DFID are rightly focused on improving; including better, more frequent measurement of outcomes not just outputs; increased access to and use of bed nets; and accurate diagnosis of malaria to ensure treatment is directed to those in need.
As those of you who have been following our work know, many of these are areas that we are also engaged on. James Whiting, our Executive Director comments: “The international malaria community know what works and thanks to the simple, cost-effective means at our disposal, global malaria death rates have been cut by 26% between 2000-2010. In addition to the NAO’s detailed case studies in a few countries, we also have experience in another, Ghana, where we invested together with DFID, the Global Fund, US and Ghanaian Governments to distribute and hang over 12 million life-saving bed nets. This investment is yielding encouraging outcomes: an independent study in three regions found 78% of children under 5 (those most vulnerable to malaria) reported sleeping under a net following the campaign – a significant increase from the previous year when just 28-48% of young children in these areas were using nets. This experience and the NAO report shows us how fighting malaria is a great example of UK aid being well-targeted and hugely effective.”
In Ghana, as in other areas, DFID are focused on ensuring coordinated effort amongst donors to avoid duplication and ensure maximum benefit, an aspect of their work that was praised in the report. However, the NAO also highlighted the powerful leadership role that DFID, as the third largest global funder of malaria, could have in encouraging others to take up and sustain funding for malaria.
We agree and support DFID’s increasing emphasis in this area, including efforts to increase domestic resources and local country ownership of the malaria fight. In Zambia, for example, DFID’s support has helped encourage the Zambian Government to increase its own spending on malaria with an additional $25M committed in 2013. This is a leadership area where DFID could really help make the case and leverage the sustained resources needed for effective action against malaria.