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Sat, 25 May 2024

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We are winning the war against mosquitoes – it’s time to finish the job

3 min read

International Development Minister Nick Hurd MP writes that the UK Government will continue to play a leading role in the war against mosquitoes, tackling mosquito-borne diseases, which is 'firmly in Britain’s own national interest'.


Mosquitoes are the world’s deadliest animal. No other creature takes as many lives, causing untold misery and suffering for hundreds of millions of people across the world.

This tiny killer not only carries malaria, it also spreads yellow fever, dengue fever, lymphatic filariasis, West Nile virus and encephalitis. Right now, with the Zika virus, South America is dealing with the latest epidemic to be spread by mosquitoes.

Malaria has by far the biggest impact. In 2015 there were 214 million cases around the world. This is a shocking figure for what is a preventable and easily treatable disease. But it masks one of the great success stories of modern times.

In 2000 the fight against malaria was being lost. One million people were dying from the disease every year and these numbers were actually going up.

Fifteen years later we have seen a truly remarkable turnaround. Death rates have dropped by nearly two-thirds. Over 6 million deaths have been averted. We can now credibly say we are on the path towards eradicating this terrible disease.

Much of this incredible progress is down to the mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets. In 2000 less than 2% of children in Africa were sleeping under these nets. Thanks to the work of the UK and others delivering a billion of these lifesavers that figure has leapt to 68% today.

The UK, through the Department for International Development, has played a leading role in this success. We have trebled our investment in the battle against malaria over the past seven years, funding the distribution of 47 million insecticide-treated bed nets. We are investing in new drugs and insecticides, tackling resistance to life-saving medicines and insecticides and boosting health systems across Africa to help bring an end to this terrible disease.

This work is firmly in Britain’s own national interest. The recent Ebola outbreak demonstrated once again that disease has no respect for borders. And ultimately debilitating diseases aren’t just a blight on communities, they hold back entire economies: malaria alone costs Africa’s economies around £8 billion every year. These economies are Britain’s future trading partners.

Ultimately healthier communities lead to healthier economies and a more prosperous world for us all. That is why Britain is leading global efforts to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world. In our 2015 manifesto, on top of our work tackling mosquito-borne diseases, we committed to help immunise 76 million children against killer diseases, help 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation and lead a major new programme to accelerate the development of vaccines and drugs to eliminate the world’s most deadly diseases.

In recent decades we have made enormous progress in the war against mosquitoes and the deadly diseases they carry. I am clear that Britain will continue to play a leading role in finishing the job.


Nick Hurd is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for International Development & the Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner

 

Also on World Health Day...Malaria Consortium asks, why is one of the world's fastest growing infectious diseases still being ignored? Read more about the rapidly growing Dengue crisis here.

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