Malaria has plagued mankind for millennia. In the 5th century B.C, Herodotus described fisherman wrapping themselves in their fishing nets to protect themselves against biting gnats. Several centuries later, a malaria epidemic may have contributed to the fall of the Roman empire. And in Elizabethan England, the disease was so prevalent that Shakespeare featured it in nine of his plays.
Ten years ago, President Bush decided that malaria had caused enough suffering. At the time, malaria was killing more than 1 million people each year, mostly young children and pregnant women, and was responsible for up to 45 percent of all hospital admissions. The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) aimed to lower those numbers.
Although beginning in 2007 with three focus countries, today, PMI works in 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Greater Mekong. President Obama expanded the initiative, and bipartisan Congressional leadership has sustained our work.
Together with partner countries, we are bringing effective tools to the people who need them most, including use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying, accurate diagnosis, prompt treatment of cases, and preventive treatment of women during pregnancy.
Last year, PMI used home spraying to help protect more than 18 million people, and provided more than 31 million long-lasting bednets, 80 million antimalarial treatments, and more than 59 million rapid diagnostic tests.
In 2014 alone, 85,000 health workers were trained to administer malaria diagnosis and treatment; almost all trainings also prepared participants to effectively address the other main causes of childhood illness. With every health worker trained, local local health systems were strengthened.
Thanks to these efforts and others, an estimated 4 million malaria-related deaths have been averted worldwide in the last decade. Of these, 95 percent are estimated to be children under age 5 in Africa. Less malaria means fewer newborn, infant and maternal deaths; fewer days missed at school and work; more productive communities; and stronger economies.
We are getting much closer to a world without malaria.
April 25th, Malaria Day, calls attention to the disease and mobilizes action to combat it. Today, we recommit to bringing tools and effective solutions to people in need; the global community must continue to invest in research and development to improve these tools, from vaccines and new drugs to more sensitive diagnostics and surveillance systems.
With partner countries, we plan to help reduce malaria mortality by one-third from 2015 levels in PMI-supported countries by 2020.
Malaria disproportionately affects the poor and traps families in a vicious cycle of disease and poverty. For hundreds of millions of people, every day is malaria day. And for more than 1,000 people, mostly children, because of malaria today will be their last.We have the knowledge and ability to prevent and treat malaria, and we will not stop until we defeat malaria.