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SEATTLE -- Bill and Melinda Gates today 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." They delivered the call to action at a forum of 300 leading malaria scientists and policymakers from around the world.
"Advances in science and medicine, promising research, and the rising concern of people around the world represent an historic opportunity not just to treat malaria or to control it—but to chart a long-term course to eradicate it," said Melinda Gates.
Every 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. Malaria programs since then have focused on reducing, not ending, the burden of malaria.
"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."
New Malaria Partnerships, Resources Achieving Large-Scale Success
Bill Gates noted that "a rush of new actors"—such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the World Bank's Malaria Booster Program; and the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative—are 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 70 countries.
Gates also commended African countries that have undertaken aggressive, comprehensive malaria control programs. In particular, he praised Zambia's malaria program as an "inspiring example of a nationally-coordinated effort."
A new UNICEF report released at the forum documents the impressive progress of recent malaria control efforts. For example, the report shows that:
The annual supply of insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria has more than doubled in recent years, from 30 million nets in 2004 to 63 million nets in 2006.
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, Mr. and Mrs. Gates 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. Mr. Gates said, "If you win this office, you will inherit a record commitment to fighting malaria. The world needs you to sustain it and enhance it. Malaria will never be eradicated without the full support of the President of the United States."
Research Progress on New Vaccines, Drugs, and Insecticides
Mr. Gates cited the "extraordinary breadth of research underway in medicines, vaccines, and other control tools" as another reason for new optimism in the malaria fight. Examples of recent scientific progress by Gates Foundation grantees include the following:
Vaccines: New study results from the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, published today by The Lancet, show that the experimental malaria vaccine RTS,S is safe and may significantly reduce risk of malaria infection in infants. In the study of 200 infants, the vaccine reduced new infections by 65% over three-and-a-half months. A large-scale Phase III trial of the vaccine will begin next year in 10 African trial sites.
Medicines: The Medicines for Malaria Venture, which is researching treatments to overcome resistance to existing drugs, has developed the largest malaria drug portfolio in history, and expects regulatory approval next year for an improved treatment for children.
Mosquito control: The Innovative Vector Control Consortium is developing new and improved insecticides to control the mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
New vaccines, medicines, and insecticides will help "break the cycle of transmission and eradicate the disease," said Mrs. Gates. "Both private industry and public research institutions must continue to invest in new tools in order to make malaria eradication possible."
Mr. and Mrs. Gates delivered the remarks at a meeting comprised of malaria researchers, global health leaders, policy experts, and government officials from around the world, taking place October 16-18 at the Sheraton Hotel in Seattle. Selected sessions of the meeting will be available via webcast on kaisernetwork.org.