This article was originally published in LinkedIn.
There are few moments in history that define us. Our greatest moments are those which we demonstrate resilience and perseverance in the face of great adversity. In the world of global health, we stand at the precipice of one such defining moment—ending the malaria epidemic.
Our battle with malaria has been a long and crippling one. The disease has affected the greatest civilizations and ended the lives of some of the most revered people throughout history. But thanks to concerted efforts over the last 16 years, with the committed leadership and smart investments from a range of partners—including major donors, like the United States and the United Kingdom, multilateral institutions, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Health Organization, and endemic country contributions—we are now on the path to a world free of malaria.
Since 2000, we have cut malaria deaths in half, saving nearly 7 million lives—and projected to lead to US $2 trillion in benefits to malaria-affected countries. We have seen a significant expansion of life-saving diagnostic and treatment tools. And hundreds of thousands of new infections have been averted due the unprecedented delivery of insecticide-treated bed nets to sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria burden is highest.
Encouragingly, there are at least 10 countries poised to be malaria-free within the next 4 years and a suite of new technologies in the pipeline that may further accelerate our progress to a world free of malaria.
But it may surprise one to know that we have been in a similar position of optimism before. After World War II, there was a global push to end malaria. These efforts resulted in great gains, and saw the elimination of malaria in the U.S. and most of Europe. But progress was met with diminishing funding and concerted efforts to continue fighting the disease waned. Consequently, malaria surged again in many parts of the world where gains had been achieved.
We risk repeating history if we do not learn from our previous shortcomings. The progress we’ve seen to date should not enable our complacency, it should fuel our determination to finish what we’ve started. Make no mistake, the threat of malaria is real—killing approximately 1,100 people every day, the significant majority of whom are children under the age of five. That is one child every two minutes.
The need for strong political leadership and financial commitment, from both donor and malaria-affected countries, is perhaps more critical now than ever before. We must double down our efforts and keep malaria in our sights for defeat.
Partners across all sectors are mobilizing with a renewed sense of vigor to see our collective goal of a malaria-free world achieved. Bill Gates and I have formed the End Malaria Council, a committed group of public sector and business leaders who will support countries and regions achieve their respective elimination goals. We stand alongside a dynamic Roll Back Malaria Partnership and other malaria champions, to seize the opportunity at hand and drive our progress forward to the finish line.
This is our moment. The time is now to put an end to malaria once and for all. We owe it to the half of the world’s children at risk of a deadly mosquito bite to do the right thing and end malaria for good. Together, I believe we can.