Last week, international leaders, global health partners, and malaria specialists all converged in Dakar, Senegal for the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference (MIM) to discuss the achievements and challenges the world has faced in the past two decades as malaria has progressed. In these same few days, leaders from 19 Commonwealth Countries, Bill Gates, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and leaders from the worlds of science, business, and international organizations came together at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to share what they are currently doing, and will do in the future, to end malaria for good.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Increasing funding commitments
Between 2000 and 2015, global malaria deaths have declined by more than 60% . This is largely due to international efforts and political will. However, in recent years this progress has stalled. Malaria is re-emerging in places where it was no longer a public health threat. Funding has reached a plateau, and awareness is diminishing. The time to act is now and the world is ready – last week in London, heads of state, philanthropists, private sector companies and international organizations committed over $4.1 billion to reignite efforts to beat malaria, determined to halve malaria in commonwealth nations by 2023.
2. Developing new and improved treatments
For years, artemisinin-based combination therapies have been crucial to the survival of those who contract malaria. But there has been evidence of emerging resistance to this class of medicines, which means that it is starting to take longer to cure malaria cases in some locations in Asia and new medicines are needed. Past experience has shown that resistance to anti-malarial drugs has appeared multiple times in Asia; when it has spread to sub-Saharan Africa, the results have been devastating. The international community, however, has been preparing for this. Medicines for Malaria Venture declared at MIM that it has been developing 7 new medicines to fight this resistance. Just one day earlier in London, Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical and health care solutions company, committed to investing over $100 million for research and development of new antimalarial medications over the next 5 years.
3. Improving vector control solutions, like bed nets
Since 2000, nearly 4 in every 5 malaria cases have been averted due to Long-Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS). Last Wednesday, Sumitomo Chemical, along with several Crop Protection companies, committed under the “ZERO by 40” banner and Vector Control Malaria Declaration to support research, development, and supply of vector control solutions to help eradicate malaria by 2040.
4. Tracking every case of malaria
New IT solutions for advancing the fight against malaria are being developed to provide population-wide benefits. As discussed in Senegal last week, these innovative interventions include data and surveillance solutions on digital health platforms. This is being directly tested in Mozambique, where detection data is enhancing overall malaria surveillance and control. Senegalese representatives also shared their success. Through constant adjustments of surveillance based on progress, the malaria burden has been reduced by nearly 20% over 10 years.
5. Building relationships in communities and around the world
The MIM Conference highlighted that there is a great need for more standardized processes on how to address malaria transmission and elimination. It is crucial for nations and communities to build partnerships to best share scientific knowledge and processes. To address complex diseases like malaria, it is imperative that we work together across communities of developed and developing countries.
The world is ready to beat malaria. Are you?
This post was written by Avery Manousos, champion and Nothing But Nets spring intern 2018