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Hello, I’m Thomas Locke and this is Five Minutes, the podcast that brings you closer to the malaria experts.

Today is World Malaria Day, an internationally observed event on 25 April each year. Paris is the host city this year, with a series of events to mobilise decision makers and members of the public.

To take a look at where we are in the fight against malaria, I’m joined by Michal Fishman of Malaria No More. She’s co-chairs the RBM Partnership to End Malaria’s Strategic Communications Partner Committee, which brings together organisations to reduce the malaria burden.

Michal, thanks for joining me. The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day is ‘Zero Malaria Starts With Me’. Could you tell me more about the personal commitment you’re wanting people to make to fight malaria?

Well, half the world is still living at risk of this disease on a nightly basis, when they put themselves at risk of getting bitten by a mosquito that is infected with the malaria parasites. Those are the people who most need to make sure that they’re taking that personal responsibility to protect themselves, their families, their communities, from this disease. At the same time, people who live in those countries, as well as people who live in countries that aren’t affected by malaria on a daily basis, we have the power, each and every one of us, has the power to hold country leaders to account.

Do you think, therefore, that world leaders need to be doing more? In one of Trump’s latest budget proposals, he was suggesting cuts to the Global Fund by £460 million. How much of the stalling progress we’re seeing is down to lacking commitment?

Let me first address the stalling progress. I think that the stall in progress is a bit of a misnomer. This stall is in the accelerated progress that we’ve seen to date. Just look back to 2000, there’s been an incredible and significant and rapid decline in malaria cases and deaths, that have led to saving seven million lives and preventing more than one billion malaria cases in the world. Funding commitments and the funding levels that the US has done historically and even look at what funding levels can be done, and the impact that the U.S. leadership can have, as it relates to The Global Fund and as it relates to its own bilateral work that it does with countries through the President’s Malaria Initiative. So, absolutely, the U.S. needs to continue to step up and I think that Congress recognises that, and we call on Congress to make sure that they continue to keep those funds where they are and even look to expand them when it comes to The Global Fund in particular.

With The Global Fund, how high stakes is this? There’s a replenishment in October. How crucial is it that funding is restored because, reading here the World Malaria Report of 2018, Dr Tedros of the World Health Organization says that we risk losing a lot of the progress that we have made over the last 20 years. How crucial is it that we have the funding ready?

Oh, it’s tremendous. I mean it is absolutely essential and, in particular, it’s essential because The Global Fund is the leading program from where 60% of malaria programmes are funded through The Global Fund. So, when you think about all of the bed nets that are being distributed, all of the indoor residual spraying campaigns that are taking place in protecting families and protecting homes, all of the antimalarials that are protecting pregnant women, that are protecting and treating children and women, who were at greatest disproportion for getting the disease. 60% of that funding comes from, for those programs, The Global Fund. And so, the success that we’ve seen to date, very much hinges on The Global Fund being able to be fully funded to continue that lifesaving work. We know, through their investment case, that the minimum of at least $14 billion that they’re seeking in this replenishment cycle.

And how likely is it that we will reach that 14 billion target?

Well, I’m not a sightseer and certainly can’t predict the future. But, I think that countries more and more are recognising and know that this is one of the best and most effective investments that they can be making. They’re not just investments to save lives. They’re investments to ensure that kids are going to school, they’re investments to ensuring that communities and parents are able to maintain a stable workforce. When you can maintain a stable workforce, and when your children are educated, that country’s progress and development is going to accelerate.

Well, Michal of the RBM partnership to End Malaria and, of course. Malaria No More. Thanks very much.

Oh my pleasure, Have a good evening and Happy World Malaria Day, Thomas.

Thank you, that was Michal Fishman of Malaria No More and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. Happy World Malaria Day.