Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am most touched to have been asked to join you here today at such a pivotal time in our history. If I may, I would like to express my deep gratitude to President Kagame and all those who have contributed to making this Summit happen so that we can drive our collective energy even further forward.
Human health, planetary health and economic health are fundamentally interconnected. The past two and a half years have seen the world battle an unprecedented global pandemic that has and, in many ways, continues to impact the lives, livelihoods and economies of communities right around the world. At the same time, climate change is causing the length of the malaria transmission season to increase in many parts of the globe. A recent study from the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine showed that if global mean temperatures continue to rise to 3.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, an additional 4.7 billion people could be living in areas at risk of malaria and dengue transmission.
So here, the Commonwealth has a vital role to play. As President of Malaria No More U.K. and building on this and last C.H.O.G.M.’s summit, I continue to support our collective ambition to halve malaria by 2023. We must also acknowledge that the burden of neglected tropical diseases is also a hugely important issue. Such diseases are endemic in forty-six of the Commonwealth’s fifty-four countries, thereby representing two thirds of the world’s burden. So, I very much welcome the declaration that has been launched today.
While we have achieved so much in the malaria campaign since 2000, I am afraid that largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic there remains a great amount to do if our ambitions are to be met. I can only hope that today’s meeting signals the necessary focus, and prioritization, of funding for novel therapeutic, prophylactic, and vaccine strategies against malaria.
For example, I understand that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria reported that 188 million mosquito nets were distributed in 2020 – a seventeen per cent increase compared to 2019, despite Covid-19. And there is a wider hope – we now have more valuable assets at our disposal than ever before. For example, the first W.H.O. approved vaccine, new nets and modern communications tools to monitor our progress and fight against complacency.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, these efforts take bold ambition, concerted action on the ground with communities and partnerships across borders. Here, if I may say so, it is truly inspiring to see so many Commonwealth leaders talking to one another to ensure life-saving medical material and preventative supply chains can keep flowing across our borders. Similarly, we know that this is a battle that is fought on the ground in local communities and by citizens themselves. In this regard, we acknowledge and give particular thanks for the tireless efforts of community health and prevention workers who each make such an important difference. I talked to quite a lot of you in the audience today and you really are absolutely crucial and critical for this purpose. I hope this summit will give you some hope.
As we emerge from the pandemic, 2022 must be a turning point. Post Covid-19, the world is paying greater attention to infectious diseases, and we must capitalize on this to provide proper support to prepare for, and respond to, infectious disease outbreaks. It is encouraging to see that leaders of the Commonwealth will discuss and pledge their support for this campaign and are committed to work towards ending the epidemic of malaria by 2030. I very much welcome this determination and that we are not turning our back on a job unfinished.
After all, the Commonwealth is uniquely placed to help the world in this effort. We need only recall the Commonwealth’s commitment in 1987 to end polio and how close we are now to reaching that goal, even if we have faced setbacks over the years. We can achieve the same with malaria.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, these are challenges that affect us all, as one people living on one planet. Therefore, to solve them for present and future generations, we all have a responsibility to come together to accelerate action and the scaling of solutions.