Britain, tech tycoon unveil $6b funding to wipe out malaria

Microsoft co-founder Gates (at far left) with British Chancellor Osborne during their visit yesterday to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicinein Britain.
Microsoft co-founder Gates (at far left) with British Chancellor Osborne during their visit yesterday to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicinein Britain.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain's finance minister and tech billionaire Bill Gates yesterday unveiled a plan to spend billions to eradicate "the world's deadliest killer", malaria.

Chancellor George Osborne and Mr Gates announced £3 billion (S$6 billion) in funding over the next five years for research and to support efforts to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease, in a joint article in The Times.

"When it comes to human tragedy, no creature comes close to the devastation caused by the mosquito," the two wrote. "We both believe that a malaria-free world has to be one of the highest global health priorities."

The fund would be made up of £500 million a year from Britain's overseas aid budget for the next five years, as well as US$200 million (S$286 million) this year from The Gates Foundation, with more donations to follow.

There were 438,000 malaria deaths last year, most of them children aged under five, and the majority of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Efforts to control the disease have made significant progress in the last 15 years, but are threatened by the spread of resistance to anti-malarial drugs and to insecticide, the WHO said in its World Malaria Report 2015. "If new insecticides are not introduced by 2020, the situation will become critical and deaths could surge," Mr Osborne and Mr Gates wrote, adding that fighting diseases required collaboration between private companies, governments and charities.

"We are optimistic that in our lifetimes we can eradicate malaria and other deadly tropical diseases, and confront emerging threats," the article concluded.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'Britain, tech tycoon unveil $6b funding to wipe out malaria'. Print Edition | Subscribe