The fight against one of the deadliest diseases in the world was the topic of a hearing held Wednesday by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global health.
The latest global estimates report about 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths. An estimated 85 percent of the fatalities are children. Spread by infected mosquitos, most deaths occur among children living in Africa, where a child dies every minute from malaria.
"In 2005, President George W. Bush established the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) and targeted several African malaria endemic countries to receive over a billion dollars to mitigate and someday eradicate this killer disease. The positive consequences of that bold and compassionate initiative include over a million lives saved over the last decade," Smith said, noting that his own grandfather contracted malaria during World War I. "High morbidity and mortality rates are not necessary--malaria is both preventable and treatable."
The hearing, entitled "The U.S. Contribution to the Fight Against Malaria," was held before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations chaired by Smith.
Testifying were Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, President's Malaria Initiative; Col. Peter J. Weina, Ph.D., M.D., Deputy Commander, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Department of Defense, and; The Honorable Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
"For many countries in this region, malaria elimination is entirely within reach," said Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "We have reached a critical moment in history where we can see the end of malaria deaths. By investing now, the U.S. can help lead the world in shrinking the map on malaria by accelerating scientific progress and directing resources to people most impacted by this disease; however, if we lose momentum now, it will require even more costly investments to get back on track.
Advances in science and programs had moved malaria closer to elimination, he said.
"We are at a critical "tipping point in the history of malaria," Dybul said. "We have never had this moment in history before. Malaria has been with us as long as history has been recorded--as long as we know. We are the generation, you are the leaders, that can actually put us on a course to end this disease as a public health threat. That's why it's so important to act today."
"The global malaria fight is succeeding. Deaths have decreased by a third over the past decade, from a million per year to an estimated 660,000 per year," said Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer.
U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator. "With bipartisan support in Congress, for both bilateral and multilateral efforts, through the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria, malaria is being rolled back. It's a triumph of partnership -- all of us working together -- the U.S. Government and our partners."
Col. Weina noted how malaria can be drug resistant, but that the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is exploring new vaccination possibilities.
"The vaccine research effort of the joint Army/Navy program is exploring multiple different candidate vaccines and looking at what strategy will work the best," Weina said. "The best we can do is through prudent use of these agents to extend the life of these drugs until new ones are found. While our vaccines show promise, it will likely be years, if not decades, before we have anything that can really make a global difference."