On 20 August 1897, British surgeon Ronald Ross made the momentous discovery that mosquitoes transmitted malaria parasites to humans. More than 100 years later, much progress has been made, but nearly half the world’s population are still at risk from malaria. Each year, 250 million people become severely ill and 863,000 die from the disease. Although effective ways to prevent and treat malaria exist, one child dies needlessly from the disease every 45 seconds in Africa.
Malaria has a disproportionate impact on the poor, children, pregnant women, people living in conflict affected and fragile states and those living with HIV and AIDS. It place an immense burden on national health systems. It impoverishes families and holds back economic growth. And while we currently have effective tools to prevent and treat malaria, emerging drug and insecticide resistance threaten the gains we have made so far.
Countries such as Rwanda and Zambia, which have both acted to dramatically reduce their levels of malaria, show that progress is possible. We need to support countries to repeat and sustain such gains. The challenge is enormous, but the rewards are far greater. Ultimately, lowering the burden of malaria will help to reduce poverty and contribute to development.
The Coalition Government is committed to help meet this challenge by increasing its focus and ambition on malaria. We will publish a malaria evidence paper and a business plan by the end of 2010. These will give a rationale for our approach and set out what we will do, how we will work with others and how we will measure results in achieving our objectives. The business plan will be backed up by spending of up to £500 million per year where we can deliver results and value for money.
On the month of the anniversary of Ross’s discovery we are launching a public consultation on what more the UK could do, how best to focus our efforts and how to deliver results. We would like your views on how, together, we can break the cycle of malaria.