Malaria Funding Threatened

Canadian Press has reported that, “A Canadian program that’s saved thousands of Africans from deadly malaria has been scaled back while federal officials decide whether to renew funding.”  These funds had been used by the Canadian Red Cross and UNICEF to run bed net distribution program in several countries.Of even greater concern is the willingness and ability of malaria endemic countries to show a commitment for tackling the disease.  News from the World Social Forum in Nairobi is that, “African governments’ failure to deliver on a 2001 vow to spend 15 per cent of budgets on health has cost the continent 40 million lives, activists including Nobel winners Desmond Tutu and Wangari Maathai said yesterday.”  The gathering further noted that, “Malaria kills more than one million Africans a year, nearly 90 percent of the global total.”

Most donor supported malaria programs are time-limited. Global Fund grants, for example are for only five years, and the President’s Initiative is currently slated only until around 2010.  This is not to say that other funds will not become available, but the inability of endemic countries to step up to the plate and commit more funds for health and malaria threatens their ability to sustain malaria control.

Another perspective is offered by the group WEMOS who report that, “Public expenditure, however, is restricted by IMF macroeconomic policies and conditions. … Budget ceilings imposed by the IMF are ineffective and have negative effects on the health sector. Although exemptions can be made (and sometimes are) if extra money becomes available for the health sector, these increases do not come anywhere near the expenditure needed to achieve the health-related MDGs.” A 4-country study found recent health expenditures as a portion of the national budget ranging between 8.6% and 12.0% as seen in the figure below.

health-expenditure-as-of-national-budget-wemos.jpg

Clearly the problem of adequate funding for malaria is multifaceted. Multi-national organizations, bilateral donors and endemic country governments need to work together to ensure that the future is malaria-free.

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