Malaria Plus Brexit – let’s hope no Malexit

brexit and africaNo one knows for certain the full implications of Britain’s narrow vote to leave the European Union (EU). Since Britain has been a major player in malaria research and development aid, questions naturally arise of whether the British exit (Brexit) from the EU will affect development aid and global research generally and malaria aid and research specifically.

Earlier this week the Brookings Institution examined the ways that a Brexit could affect Africa. Here are some of the possibilities adapted to malaria –

  • Volatility in the global economic market will affect not only the British economy but also those of malaria endemic countries, possibly reducing the reducing available funds for national contributions to malaria control at home, a major goal for sustaining malaria control and elimination
  • Britain specifically may not be able to sustain its financial contributions to malaria aid through the Global Fund, bilateral malaria programs and of course it would no longer contribute to the European Development Fund which currently stands at nearly 15% of its total.
  • The British economy which like all modern nations depends on trade would be affected by the need to renegotiate hundreds of trade agreements around the world. Less trade likely means less income and less development aid.

In both 2014 and 2015 the United Kingdom contributed 8% of the total contributions received by the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria. In addition “UK’s official development assistance (ODA) is expected to rise to £11.3bn when it hits the 0.7% target. With a population of about 63 million, the figure works out at roughly £137 per Brit.” In 2012 the malaria component was estimated at 2%.

Patrick Vallance and Tim Wells examine the importance of global collaboration on malaria research. This requires the free flow of researchers and their needed supplies across national borders, especially malaria research that has had to date a pan-European character. They describe the collaboration needed “between commercial and non-profit organizations, and between academic science and medicine. Without such partnerships, advances in fighting this deadly disease would not have been possible.”

Vallance and Wells give the example of “GSK’s research site in Tres Cantos, Spain. The lab operates with the support and advice of a broad range of actors, including GSK, the Wellcome Trust, the European Union, and MMV (Medicines for Malaria Venture), as well as various other product-development partnerships and academic centers.” Such efforts may be jeopardized when permits for malaria scientists to work in other countries are more difficult to obtain.

There may be other aid mechanisms too, the Commonwealth Secretariat being one. During World Malaria Day in 2012 the Commonwealth Secretariat pledged to assist in sustaining the gains made in tackling malaria.  We hope that Brexit will not become an exit for malaria commitments and saving lives.

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