Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, opened the Gates Malaria Forum in Seattle this morning with a call to embrace the effort to eradicate malaria. While many have been cautious to declare full eradication of the disease as the ultimate goal, Melinda urged the scientists, researchers, and advocates in the room to join Gates in this new endeavor in order to limit the human and financial costs and to ensure that we don’t allow the malaria parasite to continue to adapt to new preventions and treatments.
Melinda talked about her past trip to Zambia where she met a young girl sick with malaria. The girl and her family were waiting for an ambulance to take her to get the care she needed to survive. She doesn’t know if the young girl made it to the hospital in time. Melinda said, “No child should die of malaria in today’s world.” She added, “Any goal short of eradicating malaria is accepting malaria.”
Bill Gates spoke next and he opened his speech by saying, “If the mosquito were as ingenious as they say, it would target this hall.”
Bill attributed his optimism for our ability to eradicate malaria to the new group of actors working on malaria such as the Global Fund, World Bank’s Malaria Booster Program, and the President’s Malaria Initiative. He also commended the African leaders who have led their countries’ aggressive and comprehensive malaria programs. Zambia in particular is on track to reach 80 percent of households with insecticide-treated nets.
Bill also stressed the importance of prevention and noted that by focusing on efforts to prevent cases of malaria, we will need to treat malaria less often.
He called on the future president of the United States to maintain and increase the funding and support for malaria prevention because malaria can only be eradicated with the full support of the President of the United States.
“We have a real chance to build the partnerships, generate the political will, and develop the scientific breakthroughs we need to end this disease,” said Bill Gates. “We will not stop working until malaria is eradicated.”
During Q&A after the speeches ended, Bill reaffirmed that the Gates Foundation’s commitment to malaria eradication won’t wane and he hopes others will join. Melinda quickly followed up by saying that we already have a diverse group of partners working on the fight against malaria. With partners like the WNBA, Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated and American Idol, we can reach a whole new range of people to help beat the disease.
Dr. Margaret Chen, Director-General of the World Health Organization, stood up at the end of the Q &A and said, “I pledge to WHO’s commitment to this, and encourage all of you to join us.”