EPPN Global Health Series: Malaria

May 27, 2020
By: 
Patricia Kisare

Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest infectious diseases in the world today. While it has been eradicated in many parts of the world, malaria remains endemic in poor tropical and subtropical areas, especially where climatic factors such as humidity, temperature, and rainfall make it easier for Anopheles mosquitoes to thrive. People living in poverty and other vulnerable populations are at the greatest risk of dying from malaria.

The Episcopal Church has been involved in the work to reduce the burden of malaria in a variety of ways. We respond to our call to care for the world’s most vulnerable – many of whom are at high risk of malaria, including children and pregnant women, who are most likely to die from the illness. We partner with Anglicans around the world to eradicate this disease from communities it harms. In 2003 and 2018, the General Convention endorsed international goals that include combating malaria globally and tasked the Office of Government Relations (OGR) with ensuring that the U.S. government meets its commitment. OGR works with ecumenical, global health, and Anglican Communion partners to advocate for robust and sustainable bilateral and multilateral malaria programs, including ensuring that Congress appropriates needed funds every year.

In 2018, OGR partnered with Friends of the Global Fight and the J.C. Flowers Foundation to facilitate advocacy meetings for Anglican bishops from Africa who met with members of Congress and other policymakers to discuss ways Anglican churches are responding on the ground and to make the case for continued U.S. government support. Through its NetsforLife® program, Episcopal Relief and Development works with local partners to promote the use of bed nets to prevent malaria. The J.C. Flowers Foundation continues to support malaria elimination efforts through the Isdell:Flowers Cross-Border Malaria Initiative, which partners with religious communities, governments, and other organizations to deliver malaria education, preventive, and treatment services.

Increased efforts to prevent, mitigate, and eradicate malaria over the past twenty years have led to significant progress. Global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 60 percent since 2000. As the 2019 World Malaria report shows, between 2010 and 2018, the malaria incidence rate declined from 71 to 57 cases per 1000. Yet, many challenges remain. The report also shows that malaria continues to kill over 400,000 people annually, and hundreds of millions of people are affected each year. Other challenges include drug and insecticide resistance as well as stalled progress in some affected countries, which complicates efforts to eradicate the disease.

Consider these statistics:

The U.S. government has been involved in the global fight against malaria since the 1950s as part of its development and relief work, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2005, President George W. Bush launched the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to streamline U.S. bilateral malaria efforts with the goal of reducing the malaria mortality rate in heavily impacted countries by half. The U.S. is also involved through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, a public-private organization that provides 65 percent of all international funding for malaria control and research programs.

The international community has set the goal of eliminating malaria by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development agenda. This will require greater coordination, political will, and financial commitment from governments and non-governmental stakeholders. As the largest financial donor to malaria programs and contributor of technical expertise, the U.S. has a major role to play in achieving this goal.

Looking ahead, there are growing concerns that the U.S. government will pull back its support for malaria programs, rather than sustaining and expanding current efforts. The outbreak of COVID-19 also has the potential to disrupt on-the-ground malaria programs and the availability of critical drugs. As Episcopalians, we must continue to raise our voices through advocacy to ensure the sustainability of global malaria programs and to care for all of God’s people.

Additional Resources:

Continue the Series

Global Health Series Week 1: Global Health Security
Global Health Series Week 2: Maternal and Child Health
Global Health Series Week 3: HIV/AIDS