30 Apr 2013

"Partnership" was the buzz word at the April 25 World Malaria Day panel discussion on Capitol Hill that was hosted by a range of organizations in collaboration with the Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases in the US Senate.

Referring to the progress made in malaria prevention and control—particularly the estimated one million lives saved in the past decade attributed to the scale-up of existing interventions—US Global Malaria Coordinator, Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, noted that without partnerships, "we wouldn't be able to celebrate today." He observed that from the US taxpayer and US government agencies to universities, the private sector, and endemic countries, partnerships were essential to maintaining progress and creating new tools to fight malaria. But he cautioned, "We can’t let up on the gas pedal… The minute we let up, things are going to change."

Describing the fight against malaria as a bipartisan effort, Members of Congress participating in the event echoed the call for maintaining and increasing investments in malaria. Congressman Gregory Meeks (D), co-chair of the House Malaria Caucus, pledged that "we’re going to do our share here on Capitol Hill because winning means winning the whole battle." Senators Chris Coons (D) and John Boozman (R) also spoke forcefully about the need to continue forging strong partnerships to save lives.

World Malaria Day 2013 panelIn addition to US government representatives, the panel of speakers covered private sector, academia, and endemic country perspectives. The event itself was co-sponsored by seven organizations—PATH, Nothing But Nets, Global Health Technologies Coalition, Malaria No More, World Vision, Friends of the Global Fight, and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Dr. Malick Diara, Public Health Manager of Global Medicine and Occupational Health at ExxonMobil, spoke of being "connected to malaria" his entire life, beginning with his native Senegal, where malaria has been a long-standing problem, and now through his work at ExxonMobil. He said his company was committed to both malaria education and to development. "We see the burden in West Africa," he noted. "It’s very critical that we maintain the (malaria) funding that has been allocated and increase it… A lot remains to be done."

Dr. Elizabeth Chizema-Kawesha, Director of Public Health in Zambia, provided concrete examples of her country's progress in malaria control, as she attested to the idea that "elimination is now really a possibility." She attributed progress to solid partnerships and resources that allowed interventions to be scaled up, noting that three-quarters of Zambia's population own bednets and have their homes sprayed, with high coverage in the malaria in pregnancy program. She stressed, however, that there are areas where a lot of work still needs to be done.