The U.S. is the global leader in the fight against malaria. Under the leadership of President George W. Bush, PMI was launched in 2005, as a 5-year, $1.265 billion expansion of the U.S. government’s response to malaria control. With the support of the Obama administration, PMI has since expanded to include programs in 19 high-burden sub-Saharan African countries and the Greater Mekong subregion of Southeast Asia. The U.S. is also a major contributor to the Global Fund, which has provided 659 million insecticide-treated nets and treated 582 million cases of malaria to date. Together, PMI and the Global Fund provide over 90% of global funding for malaria-reduction efforts.
U.S. funding supports the implementation of malaria prevention and treatment activities around the world and the development of malaria vaccines, anti-malaria drugs, diagnostics, insecticides, and other malaria-related research. We now have the opportunity to end malaria once and for all within a generation. It is imperative that the U.S. continues this leadership and supports countries working to eliminate malaria and the needless deaths it causes around the world.
The remarkable progress achieved to date in fighting malaria is a result of coordinated action between U.S. government bilateral programs, country-coordinating mechanisms, multilateral agencies, and private-sector partners. Access to and availability of lifesaving malaria interventions have played a particularly important part in this progress, thanks to increased funding and political support from the U.S. and other major donors. Past investments in R&D have resulted in the development of the drugs, insecticides, and diagnostic tools that are in use today and have brought the world closer to having the first-ever malaria vaccine. Bilateral and multilateral malaria prevention programs have also been crucial for protecting U.S. military personnel serving in countries where malaria is prevalent. Efforts to implement successful interventions have also helped to strengthen health systems in malaria-endemic countries.
In light of these successes, we must maintain momentum to ensure the eradication of this disease. Drug resistance is not new to the malaria fight but today looms ever larger as a deadly threat. From the 1950s to the 1970s, chloroquine-resistant malaria parasites swept through Asia to Africa, causing a resurgence of malaria cases and millions of deaths. Today, artemisinin is considered the gold standard for antimalarial drugs and is currently the basis of first-line treatment around the world. The emergence of artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong subregion once again threatens the sustainability of recent progress, not only in the region but worldwide.
The benefits of ending malaria would be significant: lower health care costs, higher productivity, increased capacity to respond to other disease outbreaks, and a blueprint that could be used against other diseases of poverty. Only with sustained support of U.S. government malaria programs, coupled with the use of existing tools and the development of new ones, will we be able to eradicate malaria altogether – the only reasonable course of action if we want to put an end to the recurring costs of fighting this disease.