ONE Episcopalian issues World Malaria Day call to action

Posted Apr 25, 2012

[ONE Episcopalian] The world loses 650,000 people to malaria every year, including a child who dies of malaria every 45 seconds.

Each year on April 25, Episcopalians join with governments, non-governmental organizations, and faith communities to recognize the millions of people we have lost to this devastating but preventable illness, to celebrate the recent progress we have made in reducing malaria’s spread, to support Episcopal Relief & Development’s NetsforLife® partnership program to fight malaria, and to urge U.S. policymakers to back these efforts with strong funding for effective global health programs.

NetsforLife® has distributed 8.5million mosquito nets to prevent malaria infections. Combined with its community education and net monitoring work, these NetsforLife® nets have saved the lives of over 100,000 children under five and reduced malaria-related deaths by 45% in communities where NetsforLife® is active.

But Episcopal initiatives cannot work in isolation. The world will only achieve our global goal of zero malaria deaths if the United States sustains and redoubles its funding for national and multilateral programs that fight malaria.

The United States is a leading champion in this global fight. In 2001, President Bush elevated malaria (along with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis) as a key foreign policy priority. During his time in office, he dedicated an unprecedented $52.5 billion to combating malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis and launched the President’s Malaria Initiative, which committed to cut malaria-related deaths in 15 sub-Saharan Africa in half by 2010. President Obama built upon Bush’s legacy by creating the Global Health Initiative, a comprehensive global health strategy that emphasizes efficacy, country ownership and the health of women and girls.

The results of this U.S. leadership are astounding. Malaria deaths in Africa have fallen by one-third in the last decade. Even as populations continue to grow, 35 countries in the world have seen 50% reductions in malaria cases. And overall child mortality rates in countries with significant malaria interventions have fallen by 20 percent.

But today, the U.S. global health programs that enabled these promising trends face the possibility of severe funding cuts. Many in Congress have proposed deep cuts to global health programs (last year, the House of Representatives proposed an 18% decrease in spending for global health). And amidst increased budget constraints, policymakers have pitted U.S. commitments to multilateral programs and U.S. bilateral initiatives – both of which are together essential for eliminating malaria – against one another.

World Malaria Day 2012 represents a decisive juncture in our global fight to eliminate malaria. Whether the number of lives claimed by malaria will continue to shrink or tragically being to grow again depends upon the United States’ continued investment in treating, controlling, and eliminating the malaria parasite. Any funding reductions to U.S. global health programs would undermine and counteract a decade of U.S. leadership in a global fight that has saved millions of lives.

ONE Episcopalian encourages church members to tell senators and representatives to maintain robust U.S. funding for programs that help fight malaria.