Brussels, 24 April – As the international community takes stock of the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, Members of European Parliament are gravely concerned by the looming threat of drug resistant malaria. Currently concentrated in Asia, drug resistance could rapidly spread to India or Africa and undo all the progress made in eliminating the disease to date. Urgent political action is thus needed in order to mobilise sufficient resources to face a potential malaria resurgence.
At present, there are 198 million cases of malaria annually, causing 580,000 deaths. 90% of these occur in Africa. Worryingly, mosquitoes in South East Asia harbour drug resistant parasites immune to the standard malaria treatment ingredient – artemisinin. This gives reason for serious concern regarding future treatment methods and growing mortality rates linked to malaria.
Next-generation drugs, new vaccines and diagnostics are needed to turn the tide against malaria. Moreover, better health services and the strengthening of community systems are essential in order to ensure that cases are identified and treated. This will result in saving millions of lives and bring with it economic benefits totalling $270 billion by 2030 for Sub-Saharan Africa alone.
It is estimated that a total of €4,7 billion would be needed to eliminate malaria worldwide. However only €2.5 billion was raised through international and domestic funding in 2013 despite the devastating effects that malaria has on communities. There is some hope that a malaria vaccine may appear by October, which has proven successful in preventing the disease in one third of cases.
“We are determined to make vaccines and treatment accessible for all. It is essential that the EU institutions do their best to fight against this killer in Africa and Asia by investing in research and development for poverty-related and neglected diseases” noted MEP Glenis Willmott, Chair of the European Parliament working group on innovation, access to medicines and poverty related diseases (EPWG).
The EU has increasingly been withdrawing from middle-income countries and refocusing its support to the least developed countries. While the reasoning behind this principle may be laudable, it may jeopardise the health of millions of poor people in middle-income countries when alternative financing mechanisms are not put in place.
Beating malaria will ultimately depend on the strength of national health systems. That is why governments and donors must act now and share responsibility before drug-resistant malaria spirals out of control. The European Parliament Working Group on innovation, access to medicines and poverty-related diseases calls on the European Commission to take steps to ensure that no sudden gaps appear when the EU withdraws from middle income countries and to devise political strategies with affected countries in order to stimulate domestic resource mobilisation for malaria and health in general.
The European Parliament Working Group on innovation, access to medicines and poverty-related diseases strives to facilitate meaningful dialogue between Members of European Parliament, the European Commission, southern partners and civil society in order to ensure coherent EU policies on global health.
For more information:
Head of EU office, Global Health Advocates
Secretariat of the Working Group