Speaking at a gathering of the world's leading malaria scientists and policy makers earlier this week, Bill and Melinda Gates called on global leaders to embrace "an audacious goal — to reach a day when no human being has malaria, and no mosquito on earth is carrying it."
Each year, malaria kills more than one million people, most of them children. A malaria eradication campaign in the 1950s and 1960s collapsed because of declining donor funding and growing resistance to drugs and pesticides. Since then, malaria programs have focused on reducing the burden of the disease. But at the forum convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates said advances in science and medicine and the rising concern of people around the world represent a historic opportunity to not simply treat or control malaria but to eradicate it.
For his part, Bill Gates noted that "a rush of new actors" — including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the World Bank's Malaria Booster Program, and the President's Malaria Initiative — were bringing new energy and resources to the global effort to control malaria. Together, these initiatives have committed $3.6 billion to malaria control and will reach more than seventy nations. Gates also commended African countries that have undertaken aggressive, comprehensive malaria control programs, and singled out Zambia's malaria program as an "inspiring example of a nationally coordinated effort."
A report from UNICEF released during the forum documents the progress of recent malaria control efforts. The report, Malaria and Children (76 pages, PDF), found that the annual supply of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria has more than doubled in recent years, from 30 million nets in 2004 to 63 million in 2006. In addition, global procurement of artemisinin combination therapies, the most effective treatment for malaria, grew from 3 million doses in 2003 to 100 million in 2006. To help build on this progress, the Gateses called on U.S. presidential candidates to commit to supporting the President's Malaria Initiative, a $1.2 billion effort launched by President Bush in 2005.
"We have a real chance to build the partnerships, generate the political will, and develop the scientific breakthroughs we need to end this disease," said Bill Gates. "We will not stop working until malaria is eradicated."