My name is Piper Paquen and I’m about to break the biggest story of the year. But it’s not this year. Instead, I am writing this from the future – from a world without polio.
It all started in August 2011 when I received a mysterious ring and the ominous instruction: Recruit, to see piece. The ring was missing this piece – so I set out to find it.
Over the weeks I discovered a monumental story: a debilitating disease, a powerful figure leading the movement to end an epidemic across America, a miracle and a worldwide effort to reach the most vulnerable people in developing communities. A war against a disease that would stop conflicts and replace bullets with vaccines – and a mass mobilisation that would beat back the disease by 99%.
This is the story of how our generation stood on the brink of eradicating the second major human disease in history. This is the story of polio.
Miss the last part of my series? You can catch up here.
On the 13th of November, 2013, the last recorded case of polio occurred in Pakistan. In 2014, there were no recorded cases... and in May 2015, the World Health Organisation declared South Asia the last region on the globe to be certified polio- free. Polio became the second major human disease to be eradicated in less than 40 years.
Celebrations were held all over the world and developing communities saw an increase in the workforce, better health coverage and a GDP increase per country of more than 6%. Aid dependence decreased because developing communities were able to channel new funds into infrastructure and education while rolling out existing projects to combat Malaria and TB. New possibilities were created by a generation born free of the disease, who would not contract it later in life. Advances in education would lead to improvements in transparency and greater accountability of governments.
Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last countries to beat polio, saw immediate benefits and placed crucial funds from UNICEF and the WHO into health programs and getting more girls into school. Conflicts accelerated by poverty slowed down and new government initiatives helped the countries build stronger relationships between regions and donors, isolating militants and using greater stability to strengthen civil society institutions.
Across the world, a new momentum fuelled by the success against polio brought advances in our understanding of HIV and AIDS. The Global Fund and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership advocated for a renewed emphasis on ending Malaria by 2020, following a sharp reduction in cases since the 2015 target, and new combination drugs (ATC’s) were developed that greatly improved the lives of millions of people suffering from Tuberculosis.
All this was possible because of a movement to end polio made of thousands of volunteers, campaigners and ordinary people like you who joined our call to close the funding gap and vaccinate against the final 1% of cases in 2011. It was possible because of Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Polio Eradication Initiative who helped health workers reach some of the most remote parts of the globe and guarantee funding to let their work continue. It was possible because a generation understood that ending polio was not just achievable but was a matter of justice, of pride at attaining something truly incredible that would last forever.
This is just a glimpse of what we could achieve by taking small steps today. A world without polio is within reach – and it’s not far away. You can help make Piper’s story a reality by calling on our world leaders to provide crucial support to ending the final 1% of polio cases by signing the petition here- and you can bring the story of polio to your community and inspire others by learning about our polio ambassadors program.
On 28th October as the biggest ever gathering of Commonwealth Leaders takes place, The End of Polio Concert will bring thousands of campaign supporters from across the country, and the Commonwealth, to raise their voices in support of polio eradication. This massive display of public support will drive the issue of investment in eradication back into the international spotlight, and provide Commonwealth leaders with a mandate to close the funding gap currently limiting eradication efforts.
Together we can end polio and complete the missing piece. With a signature you will be adding your voice to the thousands of supporters calling for an end to a crippling and potentially fatal disease that threatens the lives and prosperity of millions. For every signature, Rotary will vaccinate a child in need and give us a chance to finish the story.
Malaria. Maybe we know it as ‘a disease commonly found in Africa’, ‘a disease that’s caused by mosquito bites’, or perhaps even ‘a disease that Cheryl Cole had’. But the most important aspect to focus on is that it’s a disease that can be prevented. If key actors in development can work together effectively and efficiently, we can reduce the number of people dying of malaria. And we are.
An article in the Poverty Matters Blog discussed the involvement of African Leaders in the fight against malaria. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (Alma) is a coalition of African heads of state striving towards reducing the number of deaths caused by malaria. They have recently created a scorecard for accountability and action to keep track of progress made, and their aim is to bring malaria deaths in Africa to near zero by 2015.
The scorecard – supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – is a useful way of presenting the data, and four colours are used to measure progress made. It’s clear to see where work is still needed. However, a number of targets have been achieved, and it’s important to recognise these achievements.
“As heads of state and government, we are ultimately responsible for demonstrating that aid is being used wisely, effectively and efficiently.”
It would be naive to think that a colour-coded scorecard is going to eliminate malaria in Africa, particularly when it clearly shows that there is still much more to do. However, it’s more than just a scorecard. It represents a realisation made by African leaders that they have a vital role to play. And this is definitely a step in the right direction.
We need to remember that it’s in the interest of African leaders to eliminate malaria. This is because the disease is closely linked to poverty, both as a cause and a consequence. It creates problems at an individual, household, community and national level. If we can reduce malaria occurrences, we can create positive changes: less strain on hospital resources so that more people can be treated for other illnesses; children can go to school instead of looking after their ill parents; parents can earn an income, and money can be spent on improving nutrition and sending their children to school. This can perhaps be seen as simplified and idealistic, but it’s possible, and it’s happening now.
Malaria is the cause of over three quarters of a million deaths per year, but 11 countries have reduced deaths caused by malaria by more than 50% since 2000. This is evidence that, with government involvement and the continued support from NGOs, progress is being made.
Malaria No More UK is one such charity aiming to reduce deaths caused by malaria. How? By investing in prevention, diagnosis and treatment, including bed nets, spraying, diagnostic tests and medicines, and a vaccination.
If malaria is a preventable disease and we know how to prevent it, then why is it still such a problem? As with everything poverty-related, there are complex issues involved. It’s important to recognise these complexities; if eliminating malaria was as simple as providing bed nets we would have done it already. But the commitment from the governments is a positive step forward in the battle to end malaria. So, can we reach the target of bringing malaria deaths in Africa to near zero by 2015? Well, we can certainly try.
The newly published result of an experimental malaria vaccine is a remarkable milestone in the combat against this disease. As the first large-scale malaria vaccine study conducted across seven African countries, it has shown a potential to ‘halve malaria in young children’. With continued efforts to develop vaccines and funding for the implementation of other preventive measures, we can win the fight against malaria.
This is great news to come as we embark on our 1.4 Billion Reasons University Tour in the UK in partnership with Malaria No More UK.
Monday 10th October marked the launch of the four-month journey in which we will travel across the UK to empower university students with the knowledge and political tools to tackle the multidimensional issues of extreme poverty.
As always, the presentation is focused around five key sections that help create a deeper understanding of the issues and what we can each do in our own lives to make a difference.
• What is extreme poverty?
• Can we do anything about it?
• What are the barriers to ending extreme poverty?
• Why should we care?
• What can I do?
While exploring each of these important questions, this series of presentations focuses particularly on the integral link between global poverty and malaria; analysing the disease as a cause and perpetuator of chronic poverty, and an overall hindrance to economic growth and progress. There are still more than 225 million cases of this preventable disease each year, of which 90% of the fatalities occur in young children in Africa.
However, at the heart of the presentation is the inspirational notion of empowerment: that with the right tools, awareness and support, we can all see to it that malaria cases and deaths are reduced and extreme poverty ends within our generation. Support for programmes like those funded by Malaria No More UK helped save 485 African children’s lives every day in 2010, and by increasing funding for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and
Malaria, many more can be saved in 2012.
The 1.4 Billion Reasons University Tour seeks to serve as the impetus for more than just a presentation on extreme poverty, but instead a student-led social movement advocating for a holistic approach to development aims. Catering our presentation to social clubs, campus societies, departmental programmes, and course seminars, we aim to make the issue of extreme global poverty relevant to everyone- regardless of their background or career path. In the 3 minutes it took you to read this post, two children have already lost their lives to malaria. It is time to take collective action.
Click here to attend one of our upcoming university events and here to book a presentation at your university. After all, this isn’t a campaign. It is a movement. And it begins with you.
As part of our focus on health and poverty this month, we look at another amazing video by The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – who work to combat these diseases across the world. The Global Fund contributes 2/3 of the international funding to fight TB and Malaria and almost a quarter of all money to fight AIDS worldwide – making their work vital to increasing the capacity of communities in developing countries across the world, by stopping preventable disease and allowing individuals to live enriching lives free from disease.
Their work is huge with thousands of volunteers and health workers in more than 150 countries who are able to save one million people every single year, making ending the gap in funding for global health even more important. That’s 3,600 lives every day – lives that keep breathing, keep living and achieving great things because of vaccinations, bed nets, HIV testing, advice, research and global outreach to developing communities most at risk from these three diseases.
Together with our partners Malaria No More UK, we are supporting the Global Fund’s One Million Lives campaign to fight malaria; a disease that causes around 225 million illnesses and 781,000 deaths every year, and cripples the economies of developing countries.
Malaria is preventable, but it kills a child every 90 seconds, or about half the time it takes to read one of our blogs. The Global Fund provide crucial grants to projects that help tackle these diseases, like the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria, working with the Roll Back Malaria partnership and DFID to make the most effective combination of Malaria treatment drugs (ATC’s) available to developing countries by lowering prices, subsidising procurement and eliminating the bridge between buyers and pharmaceuticals.
As the video shows so well, this is a fight we can win. With the right funding the Global Fund can use the support from everyday people – like you and me – to make miracles happen.
With the right funding the Global Fund and others can make sure that all children in the world are born HIV free by 2015, and by 2020 we can eliminate malaria. We have the medicines, skills and awareness to help end these diseases... and we have the manpower too. We know that small things can make big changes, like expanding the provision of malaria nets or providing basic skin tests for TB among high risk communities.
The work of the Global Fund is crucial for helping targeted projects and healthcare reaching the most vulnerable communities. Diseases like Malaria and HIV are entrenched in the complex cycle of poverty across the world and developing communities are often at the highest risk of live threatening illnesses whilst receiving the least access to treatment. Preventative measures are a key way in which the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and others are able to stem this tide, by co-ordinating immunisations, outreach of vaccines and awareness programs but they urgently require funding.
In Spring of next year, governments are getting together to decide how much more money to give the Global Fund. Now is the time for donors to step up and declare they will ‘Fund the Fund’.
Together with Malaria No More UK, we are asking you to sign our petition asking the British Government to double what it gives to The Global Fund. We need to make sure they’re doing all they can to save lives - by setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.
If the Global Fund has the extra money it needs, it will get us a long way towards saving 3 million children’s lives from malaria by 2015. Not to mention the millions more that will be helped by the Global Fund’s work on TB and HIV, so please add your name to the petition.
As the first part of our malaria blog series, Elisha London, the UK Country Director at the Global Poverty Project, reflects on her encounter with this disease and the challenge it entails for our generation.
There’s an old African proverb that says “if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito”. At 2am on 26 September 2008 as I lay awake with a high fever and severe pain, this saying came to life. A disease that affects nearly half of the world’s population had made it’s way through the humble mosquito to me. Malaria.
For me malaria was an unpleasant experience, but not a life-threatening one. However, for millions of people the story is very different.
The truth is for individuals, communities and nations…malaria sucks.
For individuals, malaria can be deadly. Over 1,800 children loose their life to malaria every day, that is one every 45 seconds. And, if it doesn’t kill, it has an impact on many other aspects of life. It causes brain damage, keeps children and teachers from going to school, and can cause miscarriage, child mortality and complications in women’s health.
Poor communities are hit hardest, as they often cannot afford prevention and treatment tools such as bed nets and medicines. Once malaria spreads, it can cost communities significant loss of life, drain resources and put the most vulnerable - pregnant women and children - at risk.
For nations, it is costly. Imagine if you had to take one week out of work many times a year. Not only is the personal loss of wages substantial, but malaria is estimated to cost developing countries up to 1.3% of GDP in lost economic productivity. Further, it drains already stretched public health budgets with up to 40% of entire budgets directed to malaria in some countries worst affected. Altogether the impact of malaria costs Africa alone $8 billion a year.
Malaria may suck, but it doesn’t have to kill.
I was fortunate enough to be driven to the local Ugandan hospital on a boda-boda (Ugandan motorcycle … a rather painful ride after those injections!), and be able to pay for medicine. This immediate treatment, coupled with the counter-active impact of anti-malarial tablets I had been taking meant that the severity of the disease was reduced. Within a couple of days I was back on my feet.
Providing people with mosquito nets and early, accurate testing is cheap and effective. Ethiopia, Rwanda and Eritrea have reduced malaria deaths by over 50% over the last ten years by using bed nets, sprays and medicines. What we need to do now is scale up these successes. One framework of how this can be achieved is represented in the Global Malaria Action Plan. This plan was created in 2008 to:
Achieve universal coverage for the prevention of malaria in all areas at risk of the disease
Reduce global malaria cases from 2000 levels by 75% in 2015
Reduce global malaria deaths from 2000 levels to near zero preventable deaths in 2015
Eliminate malaria in 8-10 countries by 2015
In the long term, eradicate malaria world-wide by reducing the global incidence to zero through progressive elimination in countries
Ultimately what we need to see is a world without malaria.
This is a long-term, achievable challenge for our generation. We need to commit to this so the world’s poorest are not kept in extreme poverty by the impact of the disease, and we need to remember that until we do, no one is immune. The story of Harry Yirrell, the 20 year old British gap year student who lost his life to malaria in 2005 reminds me of this, and I’m inspired by the ongoing campaigning of his mother to raise awareness and funds for the disease.
To achieve the Global Malaria Action Plan a global partnership of sustained coordinated efforts of control, elimination and research is required, enabled by an increase in global funding.
As the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria represents two-thirds of international malaria funding, we at the Global Poverty Project are pleased to be partnering with Malaria No More UK to call for this funding to the Global Fund to be doubled when governments meet in 2012 to decide how much it should receive. If the Global Fund has the funding it needs, it will save millions of lives from malaria, not to mention more will be helped by the Global Fund’s work on TB and HIV. If you would like to join us in this call to ‘Fund the Fund’ you can clickhere.
I don’t think about what would have happened if I hadn’t received immediate medical attention. What I do think about is how thankful I am that that this disease is preventable, and that millions already have access to treatment, just as I did.
What we now need to do is make sure this is available for everyone, and commit to do everything we can to see a world without malaria. Will you join us?