Gates Foundation Malaria Forum - Day 1
This following is an excerpt from a post that originally appeared on the Malaria No More Policy Center blog.
On Monday, scientists, policy makers, and health workers gathered in Seattle, Washington for “The Gates Malaria Forum: Optimism and Urgency,” a three-day event hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to highlight the successes and challenges in the fight to end malaria.
The event began with the announcement of significant achievements, including progress toward the goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015 and that a third of malarial countries are now on track for malarial elimination over the next decade. Policy, financing, and implementation challenges, ranging from the global economic crisis to insufficient human resources on the ground, will also be discussed. Important updates, such as the status of the RTS,S, vaccine, a promising tool now in the final stages of field trials, are expected in the coming days.
Key highlights of the Forum on Monday:
- There is a need for better surveillance and, as Robert Newman, Director, Global Malaria Program, World Health Organization (WHO), put it: moving from prevention towards the new global strategy of “T3: testing, treating, and tracking” the disease. Testing (including diagnostics) and treating appropriately are necessary to deal with the threat of drug resistance, one of the important challenges identified at the Forum. Tracking, and making sound policy decisions based on timely data, is also critical. As Gawrie Galappaththy of Sri Lanka’s Malaria Control Programme, insufficient tracking contributed to a resurgence of malaria in her country.
- The malaria discussion benefitted from lessons learned from other eradication efforts, including hookworm, polio, and of course smallpox–the only disease to have been successfully eradicated. These include the need for robust surveillance, ongoing research & development to stay ahead of resistance, and sustained political will and financing. Strategies also should be applied differently according to the situation in country, according to Ciro de Quadros, Executive Vice President, Sabin Vaccine Institute.
- A panel moderated by Sir Richard Feachem (founding Executive Director of the Global Fund) cited real progress toward malaria elimination in low-endemic countries including complete elimination of malaria in Morocco and Turkmenistan, and, as announced today, Armenia. The importance of cross-border initiatives were discussed, as malaria doesn’t stop at the border. Strong political commitment and funding from leaders is needed to overcome the many challenges that may worsen the prevalence of malaria in a country, ranging from natural disaster to wars.
Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, closed the day with an impassioned speech that highlighted reasons to be optimistic. For the first time, malaria is being tracked in terms of progress instead of “metrics of despair.” Over the past decade, scaling up interventions has saved one million lives. A quarter of a million ACT courses were saved in Senegal through diagnostic tests. Ultimately, however, progress in the fight to end malaria can’t continue without African leadership at all levels. As she quoted from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), “Global dollars are essential to this success, but the buck stops with us.”
The original post can be read here.