World Malaria Day: Sustaining Success and Saving Lives
April 25, 2013
Suzanne McCarron, President, ExxonMobil Foundation
Malaria is preventable, treatable and curable. Yet it continues to have a devastating impact across Africa. For more than a decade, ExxonMobil has been working to help drive lasting change and build a better future for communities in the region by investing in the fight against malaria.
Through our longstanding work in Africa, we’ve seen first-hand the huge toll malaria takes. Despite progress in recent years, malaria continues to kill more than 660,000 people a year, many of them children living in sub-Saharan Africa. That means an African child dies from malaria every minute.
We also recognize that this disease doesn’t just affect the person who gets sick – it also places enormous burdens on families, communities and nations, helping to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. By tackling malaria, we can help improve health and development outcomes across Africa.
That’s why ExxonMobil has prioritized combatting this disease. We focus on identifying important issues in the prevention and treatment of malaria, and funding solutions to address them. We also leverage our internal expertise to promote results-focused programs at global and country levels. And through our efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with some of the best and most effective malaria organizations in the world to help meet malaria reduction and elimination goals.
Our partners are leading the battle against malaria and seizing opportunities to generate tangible results. Since 2000, ExxonMobil-supported programs have reached more than 83 million people in Africa and the Pacific Rim. These efforts have distributed more than 13.1 million bed nets, 1.7 million anti-malarial treatments and 942,000 diagnostic tests. We’ve also supported the training of 250,000 health care workers to ensure that these interventions are reaching the people who need them most.
Yesterday, we were pleased to build on this success by announcing the ExxonMobil Malaria Initiative’s next round of grants. These funds will go toward supporting leaders in the malaria field so they can continue their promising work.
One of these grants will go to our longstanding partner, Malaria No More, whose “Knock Out Malaria” communications program in Cameroon increased bed net use among children under five by 12 percentage points and among adults by 6.6 percentage points. This translates into more than 221,000 children and approximately 298,000 adults who slept under a net as a result of this program. Metrics like these are critical to gauging the success of programs and improving performance in the fight against malaria. We need to continue measuring the impact of specific programs to ensure that our efforts are working, and that we are being both effective and efficient in our approach to this disease.
Similarly, the Benguela Consortium, another ExxonMobil supported program, has made significant progress in reducing malaria cases and deaths in one community in Angola. By raising awareness about malaria and educating communities about how to protect themselves, the consortium has nearly cut malaria cases in half – from 364,000 in 2009 to 203,000 in 2011. Even more impressive is their impact on malaria deaths, which fell from 3,902 in 2009 to 792 in 2011.
Another partner, the Harvard Malaria Initiative, is leading research efforts to find innovative strategies to combat malaria. Under the leadership of Dr. Dyann Wirth, this initiative is using Harvard’s resources to better understand the disease and develop new drugs and interventions, all while training the next generation of malaria experts. In addition to funding Harvard’s university-wide malaria initiative, we launched the ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar-in-Residence program in 2012, which brought infectious disease expert Dr. Regina Rabinovich to the Harvard School of Public Health to help address key challenges around malaria. This program is one of several activities under the new cross-university Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe initiative, which aims to produce and disseminate knowledge to support the control and eradication of malaria.
These investments and others are making a real difference. Over the past decade, the global community has made remarkable progress against malaria. Deaths worldwide have dropped by more than 25 percent since 2000 thanks to improved access to life-saving interventions, preventions and treatments. ExxonMobil is proud to have been a part of these steps forward.
But much work remains, and we must remain vigilant. Global funding for malaria has slowed in recent years and threatens to reverse the gains we’ve made. As we recognize World Malaria Day, we must rededicate ourselves to eliminating this disease.
ExxonMobil is proud to continue supporting the incredible organizations that work day in and day out to prevent and treat malaria in innovative and sustainable ways. The malaria challenge is still far from over, but, together, we can keep malaria high on the global agenda and make this disease history.