Royals, celebrities, scientists join renewed call to tackle malaria

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LONDON: The global fight against malaria hits the spotlight on Wednesday when science and business leaders, Britain’s Prince Charles and Bill Gates join forces to push for new commitments to end the mosquito-borne disease that kills a child every two minutes.

The one-day summit was convened amid growing concerns that progress against ending malaria has stalled due to declining political attention, plateauing global funding, and the emergence of drug and insecticide resistance.

Celebrities including actors Helen Mirren and James Corden and tennis champion Andy Murray have joined campaigns calling on world leaders to address the disease at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in Britain this week.

Globally the target is to reduce the number of deaths from malaria by 90 percent by 2030 and eliminate malaria in at least 35 countries.

Here are 10 facts about the deadly disease:

* The number of malaria deaths fell 62 percent between 2015 and 2000, saving an estimated seven million lives

* But the death toll from malaria in 2016 was around 445,000, about the same as 2015, with 91 percent of these in Africa and children aged under five particularly at risk

* Fifteen countries accounted for 80 percent of malaria deaths in 2016, all in sub-Saharan Africa except for India

* In 2016 there were 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries – an increase of about 5 million since 2015

* The World Health Organisation said funding of $2.7 billion was invested in malaria in 2016, of which 74 percent was invested in Africa

* But it said this needs to increase to $8.7 billion by 2030  to meet targets of controlling malaria by that time

* The United States was the single largest source of funding in 2016 giving $1 billion followed by Britain and other donors such as France, Germany and Japan

* Household ownership of at least one insecticide treated mosquito net in sub-Saharan Africa rose to 80 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2010 but only 43 percent of households have adequate numbers of nets

* In all regions monitored by the WHO there was resistance to one or more insecticides in 2016

* British soccer star David Beckham in February joined join the UK campaign against malaria with other celebrities now involved to reinvigorate the fight including tennis player Andy Murray and actors James Corden and Helen Mirren.

Sources: The World Health Organization, RBM Partnership To End Malaria, Ready to Beat Malaria, Malaria No More UK.—Reuters