Fighting malaria with new drugs, vaccine

The world will have its first anti-malaria vaccine by 2016.

Richard Feachem, director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco, made the prediction at the Economist conference, “Healthcare in Africa,” in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday (March 7). He said there are now “huge opportunities” for countries to better control malaria.

For the past 10 years, many countries have reduced their malaria burden by more than half — using grant money, technology, improved treatment, rapid diagnostic tests and political commitment. The arrival of a first-ever anti-malaria vaccine, coupled with new drugs Feachem said should be available within five years, can further spur progress.

But concerns such as donor funding and behavior of governments threaten all progress made over the past decade. Feachem said two-thirds of African governments had reduced their own health care budgets and rely on donor funding instead. This is problematic since donor funding, in its very nature, is “not reliable” and “not predictable.”

Feachem, who is also former executive director at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said 36 of 100 countries where malaria persists have set a target to eliminate the disease. These countries include Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. But of the 36, his bet was on Swaziland.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.