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We can eradicate malaria—within a generation: Bill Gates

Nov 10, 2014

Melinda and I first called for eradication back in 2007 along with Margaret Chan, who runs the World Health Organization, writes Bill Gates.

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I’m in New Orleans, where I just had the honor of speaking at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). As you can imagine, given that this is a gathering of experts on infectious diseases in poor countries, Ebola is on everyone’s mind.

Even though I am confident that the US and other countries with strong public health systems will contain the cases that are popping up within their borders, it’s devastating to see what this virus is doing to entire families in West Africa.

At times like this, it’s easy for organizations like ASTMH to make the public case that global health matters to all of us in our increasingly interconnected world. I hope that will help strengthen the public will to do more to help poor countries lift the burden of disease—not just from emerging killers like Ebola but also from pathogens that have held back human potential for thousands of years.

That’s why, in my remarks at the conference, I addressed the Ebola crisis but devoted the bulk of my time to another killer disease: malaria. Based on the progress I’m seeing in the lab and on the ground, I believe we’re now in a position to eradicate malaria—that is, wipe it out completely in every country—within a generation. This is one of the greatest opportunities the global health world has ever had. Melinda and I are so optimistic about it that we recently decided to increase our foundation’s malaria budget by 30 percent.

Melinda and I first called for eradication back in 2007 along with Margaret Chan, who runs the World Health Organization. Melinda was eloquent and passionate in her call to action: “Any goal short of eradicating malaria is accepting malaria; it’s making peace with malaria; it’s rich countries saying: ‘We don’t need to eradicate malaria around the world as long as we’ve eliminated malaria in our own countries.’ That’s just unacceptable.”

Some people said then (and still say today) that we’re overly optimistic to be talking about eradication. After all, malaria is an enormously complex target and has defeated efforts to stamp it out in the past. They’re right that we shouldn’t promise the moon—you don’t get rid of a disease this complex overnight—but I am confident that the future will be different from the past.

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