Equal opportunity: the UK’s moment to be bold, as Canada signals global health leadership

by Richard Feachem, policy adviser Malaria No More UK and director of Global Health Group, University of California
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 08:12 GMT

A government health worker takes a blood sample from a woman to be tested for malaria in Ta Gay Laung village hall in Hpa-An district in Kayin state, south-eastern Myanmar, November 28, 2014. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Astrid Zweynert

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Eradication of diseases like malaria are possible if donors step up their funding

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that Canada will host the pivotal pledging conference for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on September 16 in Montreal.

The announcement came on the heels of Canada’s increased pledge to the Global Fund by 20 percent - a pledge that will greatly contribute to worldwide efforts to end deadly yet preventable diseases.

Canada’s announcement comes at a time when we have experienced unprecedented progress in driving down disease worldwide.

Take malaria, for instance. Just over a century ago, malaria stretched from the Arctic Circle to the southern tips of Africa and South America. Now, half the world’s countries have eliminated the disease, most in the past 70 years.

Today, more than 30 countries, primarily in Latin America, Southern Africa and Asia-Pacific, are working to eliminate malaria by going from low to no transmission. More than 20 of these countries are on track to end transmission of the disease entirely by 2020, paving the way for the global eradication of malaria within a generation.

This progress was unthinkable when I first started working in global health and contracted severe malaria in the Solomon Islands.

But the possibility of a shrinking malaria map fuelled a dream when I first led the Global Fund at its inception in 2002. And, while we are close, the dream of ending the three diseases has not yet been realized. Financing will be required to sustain the gains from decades of efforts, made possible by previous commitments and generosity.

The UK has been a steadfast supporter of the Global Fund since the beginning, helping to save 17 million lives—that’s more people than Scotland, Wales and Ireland combined.

Through the Global Fund, the UK’s contribution is amplified by other commitments from around the world, including pledges from malaria-affected countries themselves. Indeed, it will take a united effort.

The stakes will be high at the September pledging conference in Canada. With an estimated $290 billion in economic returns, $13 billion is being sought to save 8 million lives and avert 300 million new cases of HIV, TB and malaria.

I met members of parliament for a roundtable discussion this week about the impact of the UK’s transformational support to the Global Fund in the fight against malaria. Following Canada’s suit, the UK could and should boldly support the Global Fund to demonstrate leadership in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end the epidemics of HIV, TB and malaria for good.

Professor Sir Richard Feachem is policy adviser for Malaria No More UK and director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco