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Switzerland: Steadfast in its commitment to combating malaria

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From 14 to 19 December 2009, malaria will be making the headlines thanks to the "Every penny counts" charity appeal, run by DRS 3, SF (Swiss-German radio and television respectively) and Swiss Solidarity. Switzerland has long been involved in the battle to eradicate this plague which claims the lives of close to one million children every year.

40% of the world's population at risk. One million die every year, of whom 80% are children

The Sixth Millennium Development Goal is combating malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Today, 40% of the world's population, especially children and pregnant women, are at risk of a disease that is both the cause and result of poverty. Every year 300 to 500 million people contract malaria. 80% of the one million who will subsequently die are children under five living in Sub-Saharan African. This situation is intolerable humanly, socially and economically.

A deadly, yet avoidable disease

It does not take superhuman powers to control malaria: effective and reliable medication is out there and insecticide-treated mosquito nets have proved to offer powerful frontline defence against this killer disease. Yet, it is important to remember that malaria which affects some of the poorest countries of the world also constitutes a major economic burden. Furthermore, health systems in these countries are so weak that indispensable measures cannot be put in place and made accessible to the vast majority of the population.

2 billion dollars: an international effort that must be doubled

Steps must be taken to shore up long-term funding for anti-malaria efforts. Every year, the international community ploughs USD 2 billion into the fight against malaria, 40 million of which come from Switzerland. Yet, this investment is still not enough to reverse the trend significantly. According to one of the world's leading development economists, Jeffrey Sachs from the Earth Institute, double this amount will be needed.

UNICEF: tenfold rise over the last eight years in the number of mosquito nets

Nevertheless, committed efforts on the ground are starting to pay off. UNICEF has increased tenfold the number of mosquito nets it distributes, from 2.3 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2007. Likewise the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria paid for 46 million mosquito nets in 2007.

Switzerland: a country mobilised against malaria

For several decades now, Switzerland, via the private sector, research, public development cooperation and charities, has been an active player in the fight against malaria. Its efforts are dispersed across several sectors, from cutting-edge research on medication and insecticides to applied research in the field, right up to programmes aimed at strengthening public national healthcare systems and services to provide global initiatives with financial support. An example of Switzerland's steadfast commitment to this cause is the Swiss Malaria Group, which was set up in 2008 following an SDC initiative.

Swiss aid in figures

Swiss pharmaceutical companies, NGOs and public development cooperation agencies together invest some CHF 40 million every year to better control and combat malaria. For example, CHF 11.5 million of the SDC budget goes on bilateral and multilateral aid to fight malaria and CHF 15 million to strengthen local health care systems.

SDC priorities

The SDC helps strengthen health care services in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the national healthcare systems of Tanzania and Mozambique. A substantial part of its funding goes on treatment and prevention programmes.

The SDC is keen to promote private-public partnerships, following the lead of the innovative and highly successful partnership forged between Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture. This year they launched Coartem, a drug that they developed specifically to treat malaria in children and one that they also intend to distribute jointly.

The search for a single vaccine against malaria which has been ongoing for several years now has reached a watershed. New interim results have raised hopes that a vaccine may be ready by 2012. For several years, the SDC and other Swiss players like the Swiss Tropical Institute have supported the work of the Ifakara Health Centre in Tanzania, one of the leading facilities of its kind in Africa, which has played a key role in advancing this important research on the development of a vaccine.

Tanzania: A 25% drop in infant mortality

In one of the projects carried out by the SDC and the Swiss Tropical Institute, the purchase and use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets was boosted by a full-scale social marketing campaign. As a result, infant mortality has fallen by 26%. The project also contributed to the development of a national malaria control strategy which is now being put into practice.

Kyrgyzstan: Protecting mothers and children

The SDC, together with the Swiss Red Cross, supports an innovative basic health care programme focussing on malaria prevention. By encouraging the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and distributing them among pregnant women, malaria prevention is now an integral part of the mother-and-child programme. This pilot programme has now been rolled out across the country.