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Leading advocates for eliminating malaria met to discuss a roadmap for the future, at the final day’s plenary of the Malaria World Congress in Melbourne.
Global Malaria Coordinator of the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) Mr Kenneth Staley said while even controlling malaria had been an unimaginable goal 20 years ago, eradication was now a winnable fight.
“We have gone from hoping we can control malaria to aggressively pursuing eradication of the deadliest disease in human history,” Mr Staley said at the Congress’s last major session today.
He outlined four insights to consider on the road to eradication, in a plenary shared with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Executive Director Mr Peter Sands.
Mr Staley said knowing the fight was winnable was the first important point.
“Just highlighting challenges will not help us win. To win we need to highlight challenges but in the same breath, also real, specific doable solutions,” he said.
Secondly, he said they had to go early to where the disease was worst and hardest to fight, mainly Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
“Don’t leave the hardest until last, although we do need early wins too.”
Thirdly, new tools and interventions were needed immediately – non artemisinin-based therapies, new vector control tools for outdoor control and crucially, next generation insecticide-treated bed nets.
His fourth point was the critical importance of using data-driven decision making and solution seeking.
He called for new engagement with civil society, who had so far been “conspicuously absent” from the fight.
Deputy Director Africa, Malaria No More, Ms Olivia Ngou Zangue called on malaria-affected communities to boost their share of domestic funding.
“Countries must do more to protect their citizens' health,” she said.
And she also called for civil society to step up and play a role.
“Civil society is critical to wining this fight to end malaria,” she said.
Mr Sands said the major problems on the journey to eradication were: how to get countries to stay the course right to the end, how to do that in the highest burden countries, how to get ahead instead of just responding to trends in drug and vector resistance, and how to reach the most vulnerable people in the poorest areas where malaria would hold out the longest.
He said more money was needed, “but not a lot more”, for a disease that had killed more people than any other.
He would like to see the corporate sector get involved, as they had resources, advocacy and a benefit - boosted productivity - to do so, and he said The Global Fund was now determined to engage civil society.
“Civil society is the partnership I am really excited about,” he said.
He called for a “refreshed narrative” around the disease, with people reminded it had been beaten in many countries, “most recently Paraguay”. Every success should be hugely celebrated.
“We should resist the normalisation of death tolls.”
Malaria should and could be eradicated because the fight was winnable, it made economic sense, it would improve global health security and it was morally the right thing to do, with half a million people dying every year, 70 per cent of these children.
The first Malaria World Congress, attended by more than 1000 delegates from 66 countries, finished today.
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Director and CEO; Co-Head Malaria Research Laboratory; Chair, Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)