Gates affirms commitment to eradicating malaria

In an interview with Reuters at his Gates Foundation's Malaria Forum in Seattle, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates rejected skepticism his goal of wiping out the killer mosquito-borne malaria worldwide.
Gates said that eradicating malaria is not an unrealistic, vague aspiration but a difficult and ambitious goal that can be reached within the next few decades. The Microsoft founder now spends his time and money on global health and development projects such as the malaria cause, Reuters reports.
"It's not a near-term goal," Gates said, according to Reuters. "I'd be disappointed if within 20 years we're not very close to eradicating this globally."
Gates said that substantial increases for funding and a renewed focus, partly spurred by his 2007 call for global eradication of the disease, was steadily shrinking the malaria map and would continue to do so. He said that Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Ethiopia are likely early candidates for eliminating the disease from their country in the near future.
Gates' eradication call in 2007 was the first time the term "eradication" was used in relation to malaria since a global eradication push that was launched in 1955 faltered and faded. The 1955 effort was seen by some experts in the field as an unwelcome and fanciful notion. The disease was eliminated in many wealthy countries during that effort, but when political commitment and funding faded, the disease came back across Africa and in parts of Asia and South America. Critics fear that the emphasis on the distant goal of eradication will divert efforts away from effectively controlling the disease.
"I don't see eradication and control as two separate approaches," Gates said in a speech to delegates at the Malaria Forum conference, Reuters reports. "To achieve elimination and eradication, we need to start with control, drive it up to very high levels, and sustain it."
Malaria currently kills approximately 780,000 people a year – most of them children and babies in sub-Saharan Africa – and is endemic in approximately 100 countries.
"The damage this disease does is quite incredible," Gates said, according to Reuters. "And if you can achieve eradication in a particular country, it's phenomenal - because it means you're not constantly funding insect spraying, and buying new nets when they wear out, getting malaria drugs in or buying diagnostics. The parasite has been killing children and sapping the strength of whole populations for tens of thousands of years. Now we can chart a course to end it."