Imperial College London

Research finds funding for malaria control is still inadequate

Mosquito

First study to look comprehensively at global malaria funding finds that money is not effectively targeted and still follows colonial ties

A study published today in Malaria Journal has concluded that, despite huge increases in funding for malaria control, the total amount spent remains much lower than estimated needs. When available, funding is not effectively targeted to those at most risk of malaria, a disease which kills an estimated 1.2 million people each year.

Clearly money is not reaching where it is most needed. It is quite remarkable that funding from many donors is still linked to colonial legacies. The climate of financial uncertainty and misallocation of funds poses real risk to global malaria control

– Rifat Atun

Professor of International Health Management

This is the first study to look comprehensively at global malaria funding. While annual funding has increased nearly 3-fold over the last five years, the $2.55 billion spent in 2010 is still less than half the estimated $6 billion required to effectively control the disease globally. Researchers found that this shortfall is exacerbated in many places because the limited global financing is not evenly distributed according to risk of malaria. In many countries the funding from donors still followed colonial ties.

Research was conducted by the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP), a multinational team of researchers funded mainly by the Wellcome Trust and including researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. The research team looked at all sources of funding for malaria control – from national governments to international donors – and compared resources available for each country with the size of their population at risk of malaria.

Leading the research from Imperial College London was Rifat Atun, Professor of International Health Management at the Business School and the Faculty of Medicine. He said: “Clearly money is not reaching where it is most needed. It is quite remarkable that funding from many donors is still linked to colonial legacies. The climate of financial uncertainty and misallocation of funds poses real risk to global malaria control.”

David Pigott, who carried out the research at the University of Oxford, said: “Having gathered all the data we were able to say two things: first, despite all the spending of recent years, the global funding ‘pie’ is simply not big enough and, second, it is not being sliced up according to need.”

The study used models of global malaria risk to identify the number of people requiring protection from malaria in each country. They then calculated the sum that should be spent if global funds were appropriately distributed, and compared this to actual patterns of funding. The findings identified wide disparities, with countries in Central and South East Asia particularly neglected in terms of funding per person at risk of malaria. Globally, those countries with the largest populations at risk also fared badly: with funding per person in countries like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and India well below regional averages.

Dr Pete Gething, who led the team in Oxford commented: “We know that global resources against malaria remain inadequate but, in addition to needing more spending, we also need smarter spending: targeting investments based on the best available data to make sure those most in need are not left behind. We need renewed investment in malaria control. To withhold money now could ultimately undo many of the hard-won gains against malaria over the past decade.”

Journal reference

Pigott, D.M., Atun, R., Moyes, C.L., Hay, S.I., Gething, P.W. 2012 Funding for malaria control 2006-2010: a comprehensive global assess

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