Pending or already made cuts in foreign aid expenditure are threatening the gains achieved in malaria control and prevention. Revenues from a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) would be a suitable resource for the European Union (EU) to partly allocate to Global Fund needs for malaria fight. As such, by including malaria in FTT revenues earmarking the EU would take on unprecedented solidarity and better the coherence of its policies, strategies and practices.
Malaria Fight, a Must for EU’s FTT Earmarking
by Daniele Dionisio*
WHO figures highlight that since the United Nations laid down its Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the mortality rate from malaria has dropped 25% worldwide and 33% in Africa, where 90% of malaria-related deaths occur. And 50 countries around the world are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015 – in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets.
Meanwhile, the Global Fund has been delivering nearly half of the whole financing for malaria prevention and control.
However, currently pending or already made cuts in foreign aid expenditure , bound up with the global economic slump, are threatening progress.
These prospects would heavily impact on the fact that malaria still kills about 655,000 people every year and sickens millions more, at a time when the scourge is worsening in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, where the assessment of malaria situation is hard because of insufficient monitoring.
Admittedly, the downfall of international aid sounds like a mockery now that the cost of malaria fighting is definitely within grasp. Indeed, drying up stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes breed and securing insecticide-treated bed nets, which are the cornerstone of malaria wane, are no doubt cheap and affordable procedures.
But, based on the need of uninterrupted medicine supplies, which adds to requirements of public awareness maintenance and bed nets recurring replacement for prevention, even small funding cuts could undermine headway.
As such, it is really bad news that a just passed EU slimmer budget could cost, EU parliament approval pending, more than €10 billion aid cutback for 2014 to 2020 period. Astonishingly, this runs against EU’s engagement as the world’s largest aid donor until now.
And this occurs at a time when budget constraints in traditional donor countries worldwide are already putting foreign aid effectiveness at risk.
As a result, health organisations are foreseeing heavy cuts in aid financing including to malaria prevention and control.
As reported, Global Fund estimates foreshadow that disbursement from main supporters - which encompass the European Commission (EC), EU member states, the United States and Japan - will turn down from US$ 3.5 billion in 2012 to US$ 3.3 billion in 2013. Estimates also warn that funding from private donors is turning down as well, from US$ 181.6 million to US$ 164 million, meaning 6% decline.
Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, recently called for more engagement from backers in the battle against malaria. In the latest World Malaria Report, she wrote “…the available funding still falls short of the resources required to reach the health-related Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed global malaria targets. An estimated US$ 5.1 billion is needed every year between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions. At present, only US$ 2.3 billion is available, less than half of what would be needed. There is an urgent need to identify new funding sources in order to further scale up and sustain malaria control efforts, and to protect the investments made in the last decade. We also need to examine new ways to make existing funds stretch further by increasing the value for money of malaria commodities and the efficiency of service delivery…”.
On the same wavelength, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) warned at its 28 January 2013 gathering in Addis Ababa that malaria could break out again in many countries should the funding gaps go unfilled. That could actually wipe out already achieved gains.
Inherently, the ALMA meeting stressed that “children with no immunity who have been protected over the past three years are beginning to get exposed, and the number of malaria cases among young children is expected to increase significantly this year if replacement nets do not come”.
And since the Global Fund has been the leading actor in malaria control worldwide, ALMA asked on world leaders to back the Global Fund’s efforts to collect monies for 2014 to 2016 period, as a key move in preserving the benefits already attained.
So, it comes as no surprise that in the aftermath of a January 2013 approval by 11 EU countries of an agreement to set up a financial transactions tax (FTT), development cooperation organizations called on the EC to align with France by devoting 10% of the revenues “to the benefit of the poorest in the world”.
Relevantly, while the EC has now to submit a proposal on how to earmark FTT revenues, Algirdas Semeta, the EU Commissioner for taxation, recently said that “the considerable new revenues” the tax will generate ” (estimated at €37 billion per year) could be used for growth-friendly investment”, and to back broader commitments such as aid to poor countries.
To the point, FTT revenues would be a suitable resource for the EU to partly allocate to Global Fund needs for malaria fight.
In this regard, although the Global Fund was among the top recipients of EU contributions in 2011, the EU should scale up its support now that the Fund still suffers from cash shortage.
As such, by including malaria in FTT revenues earmarking the EU would take on unprecedented solidarity and better the coherence of its policies, strategies and practices.
As a fitting step, this move would offset feeling that the EU global plan for health, development cooperation seemingly falls short of adequate coherence, innovative financing and collaboration with interested parties, while commitment in R&D for poverty-related neglected diseases is not spread evenly between member states and only totals 0.0024% of EU’s combined GDP.
Actually, adding to a December 2012 call by the Executive Director of Roll Back Malaria Partnership for “…new financing mechanisms..” including “... financial transactions taxes…”, ALMA leaders convened at the Addis Ababa meeting jointly asked for “…innovative financing mechanisms, including introducing levies on financial transactions…” to further scale up and sustain malaria control efforts.
But, is the EU leadership ready to put these requests into effect while seriously taking development groups’ question into account “Why are EU leaders saying they support aid commitments, then not defending them in EU budget talks?”
*Daniele Dionisio is a member of the European Parliament Working Group on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases. He is advisor for “Medicines for the Developing Countries” for the Italian Society for Infectious and Tropical Diseases (SIMIT), and former director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Pistoia City Hospital (Italy).