World Malaria Day is being celebrated today in Bern with a variety of events attended by representatives of government and politics, academia, business and the World Health Organization (WHO). The event has been organised by the Swiss Malaria Group, which was set up by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in 2007. The Swiss Malaria Group is a network of research institutions, public organisations, private companies and civil society organisations that share the objective of advancing Switzerland's commitment to fight malaria. "We have already made some progress," noted Mr Sager at the event and went on to say: "Nevertheless, a lot remains to be done if we are to achieve WHO's ambitious goal of reducing malaria cases by 90% by 2030."
A child dies every two minutes
According to WHO, some 438,000 people die of malaria worldwide every year, 70% of whom are children under five. Almost half the world's population is threatened by the disease, which on average claims a child's life every two minutes. These numbers, however, have to be seen in light of the successes that have been achieved in the last 15 years. Since the turn of the millennium the mortality rate has almost halved worldwide, which according to estimates translates into more than 6.2 million lives saved. Today, two out of three children under five in sub-Saharan Africa sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net, and access to high-quality medicines has also been considerably improved.
Switzerland has made a substantial contribution to this positive development with its innovative engagement based on partnership. For instance, the public-private partnership Medicines for Malaria Venture, which was co-launched by the SDC and is based in Geneva, has brought six new anti-malaria drugs onto the market in the last 15 years. Over 300 million treatments of the child-friendly drug Coartem Dispersible, which was developed in partnership with Novartis, have been delivered to 50 countries on an entirely non-profit basis. In Tanzania, the national mosquito net programme, which is supported by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the SDC, has supplied families with some 50 million nets, saving the lives of more than 60,000 children per year.
Successes provide examples of effective development cooperation
Manuel Sager sees these successes as "an example of how effective Swiss development cooperation is if all partners from all sectors concerned work together". For this reason the SDC will continue to work as a bridge-builder to enable Switzerland to put its strengths and experience to effective use in the fight against malaria.
This commitment is in line with the SDC's overarching strategy on healthcare promotion, which is described in the Federal Council Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017-20, and is based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. "International development and health go hand in hand," emphasises Manuel Sager. "Good health is vital for the development of every individual, for nations and the world as a whole. Health is a human right. Health is crucial to combating poverty. Health contributes to economic development and global security."
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