- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization reported significant progress in the fight against malaria — a more than 50 percent reduction in deaths from malaria in several districts in Rwanda and Ethiopia largely as a result of life-saving bed nets. This builds on progress in Zanzibar, Kenya and other countries. Congress now has before it legislation that includes $5 billion to help eliminate the preventable and treatable disease called malaria, a goal that has generated bipartisan consensus.

After decades of failing to reduce mortality and infection rates from malaria, renewed efforts focused on Africa are finally on the march. In June 2005, President Bush announced the President’s Malaria Initiative and later appointed Adm. Tim Ziemer to meet ambitious goals in 15 African countries hardest hit by malaria. Congress provided bipartisan support for the $1.2 billion effort over five years. The President’s Malaria Initiative is on track to meet its coverage goals — with insecticide-treated bed nets, life-saving anti-malaria drugs and indoor residual spraying of homes in each of the 15 countries. Six million beneficiaries were reached in 2006 and more than 25 million in the first seven countries by the end of 2007.

Following a first-ever White House Summit on Malaria in 2006, which launched the private-sector effort Malaria No More to complement public-sector efforts, Mr. Bush created Malaria Awareness Day in the United States in 2007 and used the platform to challenge the G-8 countries to ramp up their funding. The G-8 nations have pledged $60 billion for HIV/AIDS and malaria. Last year, the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria more than doubled its malaria funding from Round 6 to Round 7, while the World Bank increased its financial support for malaria control in Africa ninefold in about 24 months through its booster program.

The private sector and American people are also doing their part. The popular TV show “American Idol” engaged more than 75 million viewers, generating $70 million for domestic and international causes such as malaria, in a two-night series called Idol Gives Back. On his recent trip to Africa, Mr. Bush highlighted that “American Idol” will again engage millions of Americans in helping to save lives at risk of malaria.

Private corporations, such as ExxonMobil, have shown the way in harnessing the power of partnerships in saving lives. Throughout its African operations, Exxon/Mobil has teamed with the President’s Malaria Initiative, the World Bank and other development partners to put financial and technical resources to effective work on the ground. Bill and Melinda Gates, having spent more than $1 billion to combat malaria, including for the development of a vaccine, called for a global commitment to eradicate malaria, urging scientists and policy-makers from around the world to help chart a long-term course to end the deadly disease.

The presidential candidates have joined the chorus. Speaking at Rick and Kay Warren’s Global Summit on AIDS at Saddleback Church in November 2007, Sen. Hillary Clinton said her administration would commit $1 billion a year to end malaria at the end of a second term. Sen. Barack Obama said his administration would commit to doubling U.S. foreign aid to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people who die from or are infected by malaria. And Sen. John McCain has said we must eradicate malaria.

The United Nations recognized the importance of mobilizing the international community around malaria when it appointed for the first time a special envoy for malaria and tapped leading philanthropist Raymond Chambers.

The crescendo of bipartisan and international support for appropriate resources and coordination to end malaria could not come at a better time. A new report commissioned by Malaria No More estimates that prevention and treatment measures could be brought to scale in the 30 African countries that together account for roughly 90 percent of global malaria deaths for approximately $2.2 billion a year over five years. Currently, approximately $1 billion is spent every year to combat this disease. Nobel Laureate economists confirm that public investment in malaria control is one of the best investments on the planet and results in countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda prove that dollars are buying real results.

Malaria is a disease of sad contradiction: The tools exist today to prevent and treat it; yet it needlessly kills more than 1 million people a year and infects up to 500 million globally. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was created to end malaria in America, which it did by 1951. While more complex, the international community is finally mobilizing around the goal of eradication. If Congress provides the funding, it will save millions of additional lives from the ravages of malaria.

John M. Bridgeland, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Bush, is CEO of Civic Enterprises. Steven Phillips is medical director for global issues and projects for the Exxon/Mobil Corp. Both serve on the board of Malaria No More.


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