Study shows lack of malaria funding in sub-Saharan Africa

Chad, Congo, and the Central African Republic are among the 'neglected' countries where there is little to no malaria research or funding despite high death rates related to the disease, according to a study released by University of Southampton in England.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2017. According to WHO, malaria-related deaths have decreased by 60 percent since 2000.

About a quarter of countries in sub-Saharan Africa receive little funding for research into malaria despite having high death rates, according to a study on Thursday that highlighted the unequal spread of resources to tackle the disease.

The study by Britain's University of Southampton said no research investment could be found in Chad, Congo, and Central African Republic, where malaria deaths are some of the highest in the region, or in Sierra Leone and Mauritania.

All countries received non-research funding which is designed to control malaria by investing in bed nets, public health schemes, and anti-malarial drugs.

Michael Head, who led the study, said this was the first study to examine the geography of public and philanthropic research funding for malaria.

"We've shown that there are countries that are being neglected ... and we need to alter the capacity for research in underfunded countries," Mr. Head told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The world has made huge strides against malaria since 2000, with death rates plunging by 60 percent and at least 6 million lives saved globally, the World Health Organization says.

But efforts to end one of the world's deadliest diseases – which kills about 430,000 people a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa – are under threat as mosquitoes become increasingly resistant to measures such as bed nets and drugs.

The British university study was based on an analysis of funding data from 1997 to 2013 from 13 major public and philanthropic global health funders.

It found the countries that received the most research funding were Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Ghana.

Two funders provided almost 60 percent of this funding. These were the United States National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Malawi received the most non-research funding.

African Leaders Malaria Alliance, a coalition of African heads of state and governments, aims to achieve a malaria-free Africa by 2030.

Head said the disparity can be partly explained by the fact some countries in sub-Saharan Africa do not have an established research infrastructure so it was hard to invest there.

"Ultimately, however, there are neglected populations in these countries who suffer greatly from malaria and other diseases," Head said.

"Investments in health improve the wealth of a nation and we need to be smarter with allocating limited resources to best help to reduce clear health inequalities."

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