Address by Mr Ray Chambers, United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Malaria to the Sixty-third World Health Assembly

from World Health Organization
Published on 18 May 2010 View Original

Agenda item 4 19 May 2010

World Health Assembly

Geneva, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Mr President, Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour and a privilege to have been invited to speak before you today. Just three years ago, you took the decision to create a World Malaria Day to be celebrated on 25 April each year. The following year, in 2008, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, appointed his first Special Envoy for Malaria. Soon after, he called for all people at risk of malaria to be provided with preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures by the end of 2010 and an end to deaths from malaria by 2015. At the time many thought this overambitious.

As you know, there has been tremendous progress, as recorded in WHO's most recent World Malaria Report presented last December here in Geneva. Thirty-eight countries have recorded declines in cases and deaths by over 50% since 2000; nine of these are in sub-Saharan Africa. The ministers of health who have demonstrated such leadership in this fight are to be congratulated.

Of course, this did not happen just because of activities since the Secretary-General's call.  However, that call, and its immediate endorsement by the Chair of the African Union, led to a dramatic increase in funding available for malaria. This was primarily from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank and the United States President's Malaria Initiative as well as from the United Kingdom and other bilateral partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNITAID, UNICEF and members of the private sector. These commitments, as well as increases in funding from endemic countries themselves, allowed for the rapid scale-up of WHO-recommended malaria-control interventions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. The active work of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership under the leadership of Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck ensured continued advocacy and the development of the comprehensive Global Malaria Action Plan.

The efforts and resources have largely been focused on sub-Saharan Africa to date. Why this focus? As you all know, 85% of the world's malaria cases are found on the continent as well as 90% of the deaths, most of those among children under five years of age. These tragic deaths are entirely unnecessary as the tools exist to prevent them.

In my role of Special Envoy, I concentrate on advocacy, the mobilization of resources, and helping to remove any obstacle in a country's path to achieving the universal coverage target. In order to do this well, my own experience from business tells me that communications have to be brief, focused and clear. We, therefore, used the bednet as the symbol of an action that was immediately understandable to the lay person, affordable and doable. In the United States we started a campaign to raise both awareness and funds based on the slogan "US$ 10 buys a net, saves a life." This was picked up in popular television programmes, by many nongovernmental organizations and professional associations and created what the media people call a "buzz" around malaria; particularly that controlling it was achievable. It was extraordinarily successful. By the end of 2009, nearly US$ 4 billion had been committed to the fight against malaria. In 2009 alone, nearly US$ 1.5 billion was disbursed. Much of the funding did indeed go to nets, but by no means all. Much was spent on the life-saving antimalarials - the artemisinin-based combination therapies - as well as on diagnostics and indoor residual spraying. While this increase in funding has been dramatic, we are still far short of the approximately US$ 5 billion per year that is required to scale up these effective tools.