Westminster Hall Debate on Tropical Diseases October 2015

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the work of the UK in tackling malaria and neglected tropical diseases.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I refer Members to my declarations in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. One thing that is not there that I need to declare is that I have been invited to become a trustee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. That has not yet been ratified, so will not be in the register.

I have secured this debate at a critical time in tackling malaria and neglected tropical diseases, which affect up to 1.4 billion people across the world. Just to explain, neglected tropical diseases include leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths—or worms—leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis and Chagas disease. All those diseases are preventable and treatable using existing treatments, yet they continue to cause death and disability in a way that would simply not be acceptable were they endemic in the United Kingdom. This debate is particularly important as the 2015 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine was awarded this month for work on malaria and neglected tropical diseases. Professor Youyou Tu was awarded the prize for the discovery of artemisinin, which I will come on to later, and Doctor William C. Campbell of Ireland and the USA and Professor Satoshi Omura of Japan were awarded the prize for their discovery of avermectin, which is effective against river blindness, lymphatic filariasis and a growing number of other parasitic diseases.

Over the past decade and a half, the UK has taken a prominent role in the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases, and I will set out the great progress made and the challenges that face us if we are to see their elimination. I ask the Minister to consider the future of the UK’s programmes in both areas.

Twenty years ago, we were losing the fight against malaria—I declare an interest, having had it at least four times—and there was widespread resistance to the main drugs used to cure it: chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. The international will to tackle malaria seemed absent. All of that changed with the adoption of the millennium development goals. MDG 6 targeted malaria, while MDG 4 focused on child mortality. We have to remember that children are the ones who suffer most from malaria, as more children die from malaria than adults. MDG 5 was on maternal health, and pregnant women are particularly at risk of catching and suffering from malaria. The fight against malaria has resulted in a 58% decline between 2000 and 2015 in deaths from malaria globally. The World Health Organisation estimates that that means that 6.2 million deaths from malaria have been averted, primarily among children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

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