The Fight Against Malaria, At a Critical Juncture
Friday, January 16, 2015
Lindsey Graham stood at a podium at the festooned Knight Conference Center in Washington’s Newseum in early December and addressed a room full of public health advocates, researchers and politicians gathered for the 2014 Malaria Champions Breakfast.
The gathering, organized by the nonprofit organization Malaria No More, was designed to recognize prominent allies in the fight to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease.
Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, is highly regarded within the malaria community for his staunch support of U.S. foreign assistance. His voice in Congress is one reason why the United States remains the largest funder of anti-malaria programs today.
As other speakers touted impressive progress in the global fight against malaria, though, it soon became clear Graham wasn’t interested in lingering on past accomplishments.
He had a more pressing message: U.S. funding for malaria is at risk.
“Look at the lives saved and the infrastructure that’s been developed in the last ten years,” said Graham, who is known for not mincing words. “All of that’s at risk. You’ll be pulling back at a time when you’re just about to get over the finish line.”
Over the past decade or so, the fight against malaria has gained momentum. Mortality dropped 47 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the World Health Organization; the total number of infections in Africa fell from 173 million to 128 million — a 26 percent reduction that is largely the result of increased prevention and control measures. An estimated 584,000 people died of malaria in 2013.