Trop Med Conference Launched – first the good news

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s 60th annual meeting began today in Philadelphia with a keynote talk by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The talk echoed Sachs’ recent online writings about the uncertainties in Global Fund support from major donors, especially the United States. But first the good news.

Sachs reminded the audience that this year marks ten years of Global Fund existence.  In that time, he explained, many new malaria technologies have become available ranging from an alphabet soup of ACTs, RDTs, LLINs, IPT, SMS and more.  This period has also seen a major increase in global malaria financial support (World Bank, Global Fund, PMI, etc.,) from $0.2 billion in 2004 to $1.8 in 2010.

Sachs cautioned that figures in the millions and billions were not the usual grist of macroeconomists who prefer to consider the movement of trillions of dollar or more. And yet, he noted that even with this scale up over the years, millions of malaria deaths have been averted.

Then came the challenges. Global Fund support has been mostly used for commodities, as ‘acronymed’ above. What is needed are string primary health care systems, including community health workers, to deliver these interventions.  Sachs stressed that such commodities should be free to poor people, and that social marketing strategies were actually a death sentence to poor people who could not protect their families without free and equitable access to these services.

Finally, the bad news. Sachs called our current situation with Global Fund a crisis in development assistance.  He described the crisis in terms of …

  • Unprecedented attaches on development assistance by Republican candidates for the US Presidency
  • Lack of current White House Leadership
  • Cancellation of Global Fund Round 11

Sachs wondered whether the Millennium Development Goals can now be achieved. He concluded that gains against the diseases are all at risk, and that we are on the edge of collapse after ten years of work.Clearly much of the research and programs discussed at this weeks meetings will be threatened by expected cuts in development assistance, but more importantly, lives that the rearch and programs could benefit are at greater risk.

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