What a Night – What a Decade!

(Pictured above, left to right: Raymond Chambers, President Jakaya Kikwete, Peter Chernin, Martin Edlund)

Ten years ago, malaria seemed invincible. Not anymore. As malaria leaders and champions gathered at Cipriani in New York on April 7th for a gala to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Malaria No More, this ancient disease felt like a weakened foe in retreat.

Of course the job is not finished, but the progress is staggering, and many of the people in the room played a direct role in driving it. More than six million people are alive today because bold leaders and strong partners came together across party lines, sectors and continents and said enough is enough: No child should die from a mosquito bite.

The evening highlighted the audacious goals and smart investments that led to a massive scale up of insecticide-treated bed nets, effective testing and treatments, and indoor spraying across Africa. Together, these interventions have slashed malaria deaths on the continent by 71 percent among children under five since 2000.

The gala was a time to reflect on the progress and galvanize champions for the final chapter of the fight. It was also a time to recognize leaders.

Malaria No More’s Board Co-Chair Peter Chernin presented the Inaugural White House Summit Award to Malaria No More founder Ray Chambers and former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who founded the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. In a video tribute, President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Gates and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon each praised the leaders for their roles in bringing people together and tackling malaria head on.

In a conversation moderated by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the two awardees shared their thoughts about the progress.

Chambers said “unprecedented partnership” was the key reason for success in the past decade. President Kikwete said the progress gave him the “audacity to say we can eliminate malaria.”

Our CEO, Martin Edlund, presented Malaria No More’s Corporate Leadership Award to Sumitomo Chemical, the leader in net technology and innovation as well as one of the biggest net suppliers in the world. Ray Nishimoto of Sumitomo Chemical, who also serves on the Board of Directors of Malaria No More, received the award and underscored the company’s commitment to continue developing innovative technologies for vector control.

Other longtime supporters and champions filled the room, including Admiral Tim Ziemer, who leads the President’s Malaria Initiative, Malaria No More board members, representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, The UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign and many others.

We ended the evening with a video about Osas Ighodaro Ajibade, former Miss Black USA who lost her sister Joy to malaria 10 years ago. She traveled from Nigeria to share her tragic story and remind everyone of the very real and personal toll of the disease.

The next phase of the malaria fight won’t be easy. We need new tools, new money and smart approaches to ending the disease. But the steadfast commitment and energy in that room – and among partners around the world – convinces me that the end of this disease truly is within reach.

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