Despite gloomy economy, malaria deaths can still be halted by 2015 – UN official

29 September 2010
A communal malaria test, Khanh Phu, Viet Nam

Despite the tough global economy, new commitments by governments give hope that deaths from malaria, which now kills some 1 million people around the world every year, can be eliminated by the target date of 2015, a senior United Nations official said today.

“With these kinds of commitments, the fact that we can see our way to the finishing line in 2015 to end deaths from malaria could be one of those major, major stories of… the early 21st century,” Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert Orr told a news briefing in an overview of the achievements of last week’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit and the ongoing General Assembly’s annual session.

He cited major increases in commitments already made by France, Canada, Norway and Japan to the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ahead of its replenishment conference, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will chair in New York next week, and a United Kingdom pledge to triple its malaria funding to £500 million by 2014.

“The assumption has been that this is not only a tough environment but for the Global Fund… but that this was going to be a very tough replenishment,” he said, calling the pledges already made “some very good signs that replenishment will do quite well.”

Mr. Orr also voiced satisfaction over the MDG summit as whole, which brought together 139 heads of State or government in an effort to boost support for the ambitious targets that aim to slash extreme poverty and hunger, maternal and infant mortality, disease and lack of access to education and health services, all by 2015.

“Even six, 12 months ago, there was real doubt in many quarters that the Millennium Development Goals could gain any additional traction in this current economic environment, that governments and everyone else were hunkering down and this was not a time for renewing commitments or certainly strengthening them,” he said.

“I think the summit in that regard proved to be very encouraging,” he added, citing the “significant development” of a number of governments making additional commitments. .

Among other achievements he highlighted a meeting on climate change where “a much clearer picture” emerged on the path to the next climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year, with a balanced package of measures being proposed.

Nicholas Haysom, Director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, underscored the value of the mini-summits and more than 100 bilateral meetings that Mr. Ban held with national leaders, “to counter what a wag suggested to me that GA week is the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating in which the encounters are too brief to lose one’s virtue.”

As examples he cited a mini-summit on Sudan in which plans were discussed the consequences of the upcoming independence referendum in southern Sudan, and another on Somalia in which the UN made clear its intention to step up its presence in the war-torn country.


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