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Budget cuts to the President’s Malaria Initiative could risk 67 million lives, report finds

Published on 22/11/17 at 11:06am

A team of researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) has argued that the proposal by US Congress to cut the budget of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) by 44% would lead to an increase in malaria cases worldwide by an estimated 67% over four years.

Funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the PMI was originally launched in 2005 under George W Bush and is the largest bilateral funder of the prevention and treatment of malaria, supporting control programmes in 19 African countries.

Congress proposed the amendment to the budget in a justification document published in March this year.

Through the use of a mathematical model of Plasmodium falciparum malaria which considered PMI funding and epidemiology, the team at ICL, led by Peter Winskell, determined that maintaining current funding would avert 162 million additional cases of the disease, saving 692,589 lives between 2017 and 2020. If the budget is cut by the proposed amount, the model predicts an additional 67 million cases and 290,649 subsequent deaths over the same period.

“Our results provide a conservative estimate of the overall impact of PMI funding as we do not capture the impact of all PMI-associated activities,” the report read. “PMI's ongoing support [...] in counties of high burden or strategic importance is vital in order to avoid a rapid erosion of the progress made in the last 15 years on the road towards malaria eradication.”

Malaria is considered one of the most common and deadly tropical diseases, with almost half of the world’s population at risk. The disease claimed 429,000 lives in 2015 with 212 million total cases. In the same year, Sub-Saharan Africa was home to 90% of these cases. According to WHO there has been a 29% reduction of these mortality rates since 2010, and the PMI has contributed to this through measures including insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying and antimalarial treatments.

Matt Fellows

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