The “e-word,” as eradication is nervously known in the malaria community, is highly contagious. At the Gates Malaria Forum it’s spreading by the hour.
Following the significant progress in the UNICEF report released yesterday and the results reported by countries like Zambia and Ethiopia, the conversation has quickly turned to whether eradication is possible and when.
The word took center stage at a Q+A last night. “I think whether it’s the E-word or whatever you want to achieve, the issue is in your desire,” said Minister Tedros of Ethiopia. “If we really are committed to it, we can do it. So I go for the E-word, whether elimination or eradication.”
Melinda Gates took up the challenge head-on in her portion of the keynote this morning: “Any goal short of eradicating malaria is accepting malaria; it is making peace with malaria; it’s rich countries saying: ‘We don’t need to eradicate malaria around the world as long as we’ve eliminated malaria in our own countries.’ That’s just unacceptable.”
She described a “multi-pronged approach” to achieve it, using current tools to dramatically drive down the number of cases, and new tools – including a vaccine – to “totally stop transmission, and end the disease.”
“What is the most repeated failure in all of global health?” Asked Bill Gates to open his keynote remarks. “It could well be the commitment to eradicate malaria.”
Yet he didn’t shrink from the challenge. “We should declare the goal of eradicating malaria because with enough time we can eradicate malaria.” (Bill Gates will lay out his case for why eradication is possible on a future post on this blog.)
By now, the “E-word” has developed into a full-blown epidemic. Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, ended the session with a bracing call to action. “As we are talking here children are dying every minute, and we are still struggling with whether malaria elimination can be done.
“In order to take big steps forward in global public health, we need leaders to make big ambitious goals,” she said. “So come one let’s be brave. I’d like to thank both of you for taking that bold step forward and challenging us. I for one pledge the WHO’s commitment to move forward, and I dare you to come along with us.”
-Martin Edlund, Malaria No More
Tuesday to Thursday this week, Malaria No More’s Martin Edlund is live blogging on the ONE Blog from the Gates Foundation’s Malaria Forum in Seattle. Malaria No More’s mission is simple: no more deaths from malaria. Learn more and help prevent a million child deaths this year by donating a $10 bed net at www.MalariaNoMore.org.