U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced on Friday the expansion of the Senate Malaria Working Group, which they co-chair, to become a Congressional caucus that will focus on efforts to stem the global tide of 17 neglected tropical diseases including malaria. Senator Coons formally announced the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases at a reception hosted by the United States Agency for International Development on Wednesday evening.
"Malaria and other neglected tropical diseases continue to wreak havoc on the lives and economies of numerous countries around the world," Senator Coons said. "Malaria and the seven most common neglected tropical diseases cause nearly two million deaths globally each year. Malaria alone causes more than $12 billion in lost productivity, and costs many African nations more than 40 percent of their health care budget. There have been a number of inroads made to combat these diseases in recent years, thanks largely to global efforts led by the United States. I am proud to join Senator Wicker in underscoring our commitment for this issue and continuing to support U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of all tropical diseases."
"These diseases strike the most vulnerable around the world at a staggering rate," Senator Wicker said. "Many Americans who travel to affected regions, including our troops serving overseas, have been afflicted. Great strides have been made to increase prevention and improve treatment options for malaria and other tropical diseases, but much work remains. Raising awareness for efforts to address these diseases is critical to eliminating their terrible threat."
Malaria, an infectious blood disease spread by mosquitoes, is most prevalent in the developing world, with 90 percent of deaths occurring in Africa. The majority of those killed are pregnant women and children under five years old. The 17 neglected tropical diseases impact more than one billion people, including 500 million children in the world's poorest countries.
Senator Wicker, an original co-chair of the Working Group on Malaria, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Coons is the chair of Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and joined Senator Wicker as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Working Group on Malaria in March 2011.