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Tackling Malaria could bring major global economic boost, says new report

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Ahead of the upcoming G7 meeting, a new report calls on governments to accelerate the fight against malaria to save lives, unlock prosperity and bolster health security.

The GDP of countries in Africa could rise by an additional $126.9bn if the UN target to cut malaria by 90 per cent from 2015 levels by 2030 is met, according to research in a new report titled The Malaria Dividend from Malaria No More UK.

This represents an average boost of nearly $16 billion a year to African economies, for context, this overall sum of nearly $16 billion amounts to more than 10 per cent of collective annual spending on health for all countries in Africa.[ii]

The research also showed reaching this goal could generate an additional $31 billion in exports to some of the most affected malaria endemic countries in Africa; with an almost $4 billion rise for G7 countries, almost $1.5 billion for the US and more than $450 million for the UK.

These figures provide yet further rationale for G7 countries in particular, as key supporters of interventions to drive down malaria, to continue to invest in the fight to end the disease.

Malaria currently claims the lives of over 600,000 people a year, and The World Health Organization estimates that malaria interventions have contributed to the prevention of 2.1 billion cases and 11.7 million deaths between 2000 to 2022.

Whilst children represent around three quarters of global malaria deaths, infections also impact the working age population and can constrain economic growth through employee absenteeism, diminished income, reduced income tax and additional healthcare costs.

Children suffering from malaria can also experience frequent absences from school, hindering their educational progress and eventual economic contribution, as well as creating a significant additional burden on healthcare services and for the parents caring for them.

Some of the countries in Africa to benefit the most include Nigeria which would see a GDP boost of almost $35bn between 2023-2030, over $9bn for Kenya and $8.5bn for Angola, largely due to the size of their economies and high prevalence of malaria.[vi]

This economic dividend could be partly used to further strengthen the health sector through enhanced diagnostic capacity, healthcare workforce and stronger primary healthcare infrastructure. In doing so, these countries could be better prepared to prevent and fight future threats, such as new diseases with pandemic potential, making all countries, including G7 nations, safer and better prepared.

The analysis comes ahead of the G7 Summit hosted in Italy on 13-15 June. During her country’s presidency, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has made a priority of working in partnership to stimulate economic growth in Africa, including investments in the continent’s health systems.

The G7 has helped establish global health initiatives such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which plays a vital role in increasing access to vaccines, and The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has long been critical to increasing access to tools and treatments to combat malaria.

For the first time, Gavi will have two effective malaria vaccinations available for its next investment case due to launch on 20 June. When accompanied by tools such as next-generation bed nets, these vaccines will play an important role in revitalising the fight to end malaria, which has stalled in recent years.

Dr Astrid Bonfield, chief executive officer of Malaria No More UK, said: “Investing more in the fight to end malaria can save millions of lives, grow African economies and boost trade. This can unlock new funds to bolster health spending and strengthen health security in African countries and globally, showing how malaria investment can rebalance economic power and deliver wide-ranging benefits.

“The rise in global trade with African countries also allows other nations to keep the disease at bay by sustaining malaria research and development funding and continuing to invest in life sciences more widely to tackle other infectious diseases.

“In a storm of global challenges, G7 and malaria-endemic countries can work hand in hand to drive greater investment in malaria, through Gavi and The Global Fund to save lives, unlock prosperity and strengthen health security.”

Despite being off track for the global malaria reduction target, the availability of new tools, like vaccines and ‘next generation’ bed nets, means the target can still be met if governments provide Gavi and The Global Fund with enough funding so that the tools can reach those that need them.

Dr Michael Charles, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, added: “Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease but it continues to needlessly cost lives and hold back endemic countries from making critical social and economic gains. We must prioritise our 2030 target of reducing malaria by 90% compared to 2015 levels to end this tragic cycle.

“The investment gap for fighting malaria remains problematic, preventing a more rapid and systematic rollout of the tools and treatments which we already have and which we know work. But this research provides yet another case for investing in tackling this disease.

“While the upfront costs may seem substantial, the reality is that the benefits of reaching our goals far outweigh the costs. With the right investment, we can implement the appropriate malaria control strategies worldwide, save lives, and see economies substantially boosted through a combination of local growth and international trade.”

Case study: George Otieno

George Otieno is a father, fisherman and community leader from a fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu county, Kenya. He knows the impact of malaria firsthand: “Malaria is always affecting my family, year in year out. Even the fishing community… when you’re sick with malaria you’re not going to work, you’re not going to fish – it’s very dangerous to the fishing community.

“It’s important to advocate to end malaria so it can give us the energy to build our economy…if you’re healthy, the revenue we collect will go up because fisherman and crews are working, mothers are working and those doing related trading activities are also working.

“With zero malaria our children will go to school, our fishermen will go to work, our farmers will go to the farm and those who are trading can do their business.”

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