By Alex Whiting
LONDON, Jan 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The British government and billionaire Bill Gates on Monday pledged 3 billion pounds ($4.3 bln) to help end deaths from malaria in the next 15 years, describing it as the "world's deadliest killer".
British Chancellor George Osborne and the Microsoft founder said the money would help ramp up efforts to fight the mosquito-borne disease which killed about 438,000 people last year and infected more than 210 million people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Osborne and Gates said the disease kills a child every minute.
"When it comes to human tragedy, no creature comes close to the devastation caused by the mosquito," Osborne and Gates wrote in a joint article in Britain's the Times newspaper.
"We both believe that a malaria-free world has to be one of the highest global health priorities."
Britain will invest 500 million pounds ($715 mln) a year over the next five years in the joint fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $200 mln this year, with similar annual donations to follow.
The fund will support research and development for malaria and accelerate regional malaria elimination efforts.
Between 2000 and 2015, malaria deaths fell by 60 percent globally, and the WHO has set a target to reduce the number of malaria cases and deaths by at least 90 percent by 2030.
But growing resistance to insecticides and malaria treatments threaten to roll back these gains.
"If new insecticides are not introduced by 2020 the situation will become critical and deaths could surge," Osborne and Gates said in the Times.
In November the government and the Gates Foundation announced a new 1 billion pound ($1.43 billion) fund for a range of diseases including malaria called the Ross Fund.
This fund was named after a British scientist who discovered that mosquitoes transmit malaria, aims to develop, test and deliver a range of new products, including vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for malaria.
The commitment announced on Monday also delivers on a pledge first made by Osborne on a visit to Uganda in 2007 to spend 500 million pounds ($713.05 million) a year battling malaria.
"Britain is a global leader in the fight against deadly diseases like malaria - a disease that still claims the life of a child every minute," Gates said.
($1 = 0.7012 pounds)
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
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