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Are we winning the fight against malaria?

Someone recently asked us, "Are we winning the fight against malaria?"

Yes, but we are at a critical time now and funds must accelerate so we do not lose the gains made over the last few years.

A picture I can paint for you is to imagine the fight against malaria as walking along a conveyor belt. The good news is the conveyor belt has an end in sight. Compare that to some humanitarian issues, like HIV/Aids and TB, where the end of those conveyor belts cannot be seen or at least they are in the very far distance.

So, there is an end in sight for the fight against malaria, albeit 10+ years away. Now, the conveyor belt is moving against us.

In the last five or so years we have started to make good 'net' (ie positive) progress along the conveyor belt - even though it is moving against us

One measure of this progress is the growth in the number of nets distributed over the last few years. In 2005, globally, 5 million nets were distributed. In 2010, that number was 130 million nets. Good progress. Malaria deaths and the number falling ill both fell. But remember the number of nets needed per year is of the order of 250 million so we are only half way there at best. The issue we now face is malaria funding, while still not enough, is coming under pressure and we already seeing, for example, significant drops in funding to the Global Fund who are one of the organisations through whom governments around the world channel significant funds against malaria.

This is where the analogy with the conveyor belt is a useful one. If the funding is reduced we can start going backwards on the conveyor belt and it is possible we go back to where we were four years or so ago. Think of this on a micro level, ie at the community level, and think about a village that has received. What happens when the nets are at the end of their useful life and new ones are needed? If we don’t have the funds, we cannot replace them and malaria can build again and to the levels we saw pre nets.

That is why funding for nets is so important so we do not lose the gains we have made over the last five or so years: we do not want to go backwards on the conveyor belt. Instead, we want to keep moving forwards so in the next 10 years or so malaria is brought under control - across Africa and elsewhere.