Interview with Chris Richardson-Wright of Malaria No More

Chris Richardson-Wright works for Malaria No More and he has kindly answered my questions about their work to combat malaria.

Me: I know that you have partnerships in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia which are already helping to protect over ten million people from malaria, are you planning on expanding into other African countries, like Malawi?

Malaria No More: Malaria No More UK invests in countries and programmes according to the extent of a country’s malaria burden and our ability to make a sizeable impact. To date, this has led to investments in: Ghana, where 100% of the population is at risk of malaria; Botswana and Namibia, where a comparatively smaller malaria burden has enabled them to adopt ambitious strategies towards malaria elimination. An example of one of our recent projects in Namibia can be found here and with the help of the Global Fund we’re rolling out the pilot scheme across the country. Whilst we are currently investing in malaria control programmes on the ground in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia – where we have been able to use our funding to leverage a significant impact – our advocacy and communications support extends across Africa and beyond. Our efforts have, for example, helped to secure an increase in UK aid support for malaria, with the government committed to spending up to £500 million per year on malaria by 2014. We have also been successful in advocating with DFID for this funding to be directed at those countries hardest hit by the malaria epidemic – including Uganda, Rwanda & Ethiopia. Go here for more information on where UK aid is being spent on malaria. 

Me: There is a focus on mosquito nets for the prevention of malaria, but in reality people can still become infected when they are not sleeping under their net. How likely is it that there will be a vaccine available in the future?

Malaria No More: Vaccines are seen as the most effective – and often cheapest – means to stop the spread of disease. Scientists around the world are working on the development of a vaccine against malaria and there are promising developments on a weekly basis. However, the malaria parasites have proven to be remarkably adaptable. They change their characteristics as antibodies are developed, making it hard to find a vaccine.

Currently there is no vaccine that has been approved for use, although there are trials of a malaria vaccine happening at present in Africa. It will be some years before a vaccine is available to help prevent the spread of malaria among all those vulnerable to the disease. In the meantime, we need to concentrate on providing prevention, testing and treatment.

It is worth noting that although a vaccine would be a great solution, we do have the tools to achieve country-level elimination of malaria without vaccines, and bed nets remain one of our most effective weapons.

Me: How close are we to achieving the global goal of near zero deaths from malaria by 2015?

Malaria No More: The target of near zero malaria deaths by 2015 was set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in 2008, we have the knowledge and tools to make this vision a reality. Increased international support and strong African leadership have enabled tremendous progress with malaria deaths reduced by almost 10% between 2008 and 2009. However, we are still a long way from achieving this goal and increased and sustained support will be critical over the next few years. Current international funding in 2011 amounts to just one third of the anticipated need. Although it looks increasingly likely that the target may be beyond us, it has provided a brilliant aim for the global malaria campaign to rally around and has helped launch initiatives that otherwise may not have come into effect. Funding decisions made over the next few years could determine whether we continue to see a decline in malaria cases, or whether we see a resurgence in the disease, so we have to make sure that we keep up the pressure and the effort to fight the disease.

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