Abu Dhabi's donation sets an example in a global battle

Emirate contributes US$25m in the push to eradicate malaria, which health experts hope will encourage other GCC countries to support the cause.

ABU DHABI // Health experts expressed hope yesterday that Abu Dhabi's donation of US$25 million to the global fight against malaria will encourage other GCC countries to support the cause. In February, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi awarded the donation to the secretariat of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on behalf of the Government of Abu Dhabi.

The donation has already given the secretariat a third of the $15m (Dh55m) it needs every year for the next five years to achieve the global Millennium Development Goals. "This money from Abu Dhabi is excellent for creating strong co-ordination between different areas and regions," said Herve Verhoosel, the secretariat's external relations manager, at an event in the capital to mark World Malaria Day yesterday.

"Abu Dhabi is very results-driven, so they want to know exactly what the money will be used for, essentially 'what will this buy?'" Rather than being used to buy mosquito nets or spray breeding zones, Mr Verhoosel said, the money will create strategic relationships between some of the world's biggest aid organisations. "I hope this will encourage other countries in the GCC to do the same. I would like Abu Dhabi to lead the way."

In 2009 there were around 300 million cases of malaria worldwide and one million deaths; most of the dead were children. The target is to reduce mortality and to eradicate the disease, which currently affects 109 countries, by 2015. The UAE was declared malaria-free in 2007, with no locally transmitted cases since 1997. The only cases reported in this country have been people who arrived from other countries, notably Pakistan and India.

Dr Farida al Hosani, the acting section head of communicable disease at the Abu Dhabi authority, said the donation was of benefit to the UAE as well as to affected countries. "Obviously one of the main goals is to decrease the number of deaths caused by malaria to zero," she said. "As a government this is an important cause to support. Malaria is a global problem and although we are malaria-free, if it is still present in other parts of the world, there is a risk it will return. It is in everyone's interest to work against this."

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership was founded by Unicef, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme. @Email:munderwood@thenational.ae