Malaria on political radar

In remarks to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on 26 March, John McCain had the following to say about Africa and malaria:

“While Africa’s problems — poverty, corruption, disease, and instability — are well known, we must refocus on the bright promise offered by many countries on that continent. We must strongly engage on a political, economic, and security level with friendly governments across Africa, but insist on improvements in transparency and the rule of law. Many African nations will not reach their true potential without external assistance to combat entrenched problems, such as HIV/AIDS, that afflict Africans disproportionately. I will establish the goal of eradicating malaria on the continent — the number one killer of African children under the age of five. In addition to saving millions of lives in the world’s poorest regions, such a campaign would do much to add luster to America’s image in the world.”

One Campus Challenge was happy to observe that McCain was reinforcing a commitment he had made to them about eradicating malaria a year ago. Sarah Jane Staats of the Center for Global Development was also encouraged. “I’m delighted to see that McCain has also now shared more of his views on these issues.”

McCain, like the other two front runners on the Democrat side has a unique opportunity to begin that support now as reauthorization of PEPFAR/PMI funding is progressing through Congress, but if he is serious about setting eradication as a goal, he needs to start talking about the big money that will be needed. Obviously malaria cannot be eliminated from Africa within the potential 8 years in office of whoever wins in November. But a stage can be set if adequate resources to achieve real population coverage with existing interventions are allocated. Eradication will never happen with lip service.

Hopefully McCain will link his thoughts about engaging countries on the economic level with his goal of eradicating malaria, because lasting change in the malaria situation will not occur without underlying social and political development.

Unfortunately if we only think about controlling malaria in ‘friendly governments’ the goal will never be reached. The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day tells us that: “malaria, a disease without borders.”

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