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UK Government Sets Up Fund To Fight Malaria, Other Infectious Diseases

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Officials in the United Kingdom plan to set up a £1 billion or $1.5 billion fund to eradicate malaria and other communicable diseases such as Ebola.

Named after British scientist and Nobel laureate Sir Ronald Ross who discovered in 1902 that malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes, the Ross Fund will be supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Ross Fund will include a £305 million ($462 million) package focused on malaria and other communicable diseases. Of the £305 million, £90 million ($136 million) will be assigned for the eradication of malaria; £100 million ($152 million) will be assigned to support research and development of products that will help protect against infectious diseases; and £115 million ($174 million) will be assigned for the development of new drugs, new diagnostics and new insecticides for the resistance against malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

The fund will also allocate £188 million ($285 million) for diseases that could be potentially epidemic such as Ebola; £200 million ($303 million) for neglected tropical diseases; and £310 million ($470 million) for diseases with emerging drug-resistance.

U.K. Chancellor George Osborne said that the fund is part of the government's restructuring of the country's aid budget which will be discussed at the Chancellor's Spending Review.

The government's goal to eradicate malaria is built upon the Chancellor's commitment to meet the 0.7 percent Official Development Assistance (ODA) target and allocate funding from the national income to help fight against the disease.

"I have always believed that our commitment to overseas aid is important to promote our national security and interests and around the world," said Osborne, emphasizing the global fight against malaria.

Malaria deaths have decreased by one third since 2010, but Osborne said that every year, about 500,000 children are still killed by the disease and one billion people are infected with malaria. Fighting against malaria would save 11 million lives, he said.

Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given about £25 billion ($38 billion) to support the Ross Fund.

"Achieving the eradication of malaria and other poverty related infectious diseases will be one of humanity's greatest achievements," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation.

Previous studies published this year reported that 663 million cases of malaria have been prevented in Africa due to efforts to fight against malaria since 2000. The World Health Organization said there have been 214 million cases this year and 438,000 deaths due to malaria.

Photo : Valentina Buj | Flickr

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