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Awa Marie Coll-Seck has spent years combating malaria.
A major theme is to make sure that everyone involved in fighting malaria is headed in the same direction, so no one goes off on a tangent or starts to implement policies that might worsen the situation.
The decision to expand the Global Fund’s mandate to include malaria and tuberculosis as well as HIV/AIDS, however, has given a boost to what had seemed like a forgotten struggle. Where previously only about $60 million was dedicated to fighting malaria, the figure is now about $1.2 billion. Coll-Seck feels that $5 billion a year is needed to get the job done.
The results are already impressive. With increased resources, Ethiopia launched a campaign to distribute 20 million mosquito nets in 18 months and saw a 60 percent decrease in deaths from malaria. In some countries the deaths have dropped off by 90 percent. And the investment in malaria is strengthening many health systems, making them better able to handle other diseases.
Given the amount it is already costing the international community to cope with the economic fallout from malaria, the money seems like a good investment. In contrast to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, where the cure is less certain, malaria appears a relatively easy win.
Coll-Seck’s biggest concern now is that the financial crisis could cut funding just as victory is in sight. Coll-Seck warns against a false economizing. “Just think how much it costs,” she said,” to have half one’s population sick.”
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