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Westminster Hall: Tropical diseases

Rose at 9.54am

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Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): 

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I thank the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) for securing this debate.

I am glad that we have the opportunity to draw attention to this important issue, about which, as a British-born Nigerian, I feel passionately. According to statistics published by the US Government to coincide with this year’s World Malaria Day, Nigeria has the highest number of malaria casualties worldwide, with an estimated 100 million cases and around 300,000 deaths each year.

The debate is particularly timely given the recent announcement that the roll-out of the world’s first malaria vaccine has been delayed as experts at the World Health Organisation have urged caution. The vaccine requires four doses, and without all four shots children had no overall reduction in severe malaria. That raises important questions about access to healthcare and how less developed countries will be able to administer the four vaccines. It also highlights the disparity in access to healthcare across the world and the more general need to address the issue in order to tackle infectious diseases most effectively. After all, access to healthcare is a human right.

I have been encouraged to see the progress that has been made in tackling malaria. Malaria No More UK states that malaria prevention returns £36 to society for every £1 invested. It is important to note that according to a recent WHO report, carried out jointly with UNICEF, malaria death rates have dropped by 60% since 2000, saving 6 million lives. The number of children under five sleeping under insecticide-treated nets has risen from 2% to 68%. Thirteen countries that had malaria in 2000 no longer have any cases of the disease. That shows that, with funding from the international community, there is hope that malaria, one of the biggest killers at the turn of the millennium, could be eradicated.

Progress must continue to be made. This year alone there have been an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, with more than 400,000 deaths. Two forms of resistance are threatening to undo the progress that is being made: in south-east Asia, the malaria parasite is able to shrug off the effects of the drug artemisinin; and some mosquitos are becoming resistant to the drugs used to coat the nets. That must be looked into.

Mrs Grant: The hon. Lady is making a really good case. Does she believe that the lack of both adequately trained doctors and health networks is also worrying?

Kate Osamor: That is an important point. We need to invest in the healthcare profession so that this significant and costly disease can be eradicated.

I welcome the fact that the Department for International Development has pledged up to £500 million a year towards tackling malaria. Eliminating malaria is a global effort that involves work from the grass-roots and aid on international and governmental levels. There is still a lot of work to be done and I hope that the UK will continue to lead the way in the fight to end this disease.

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Kate Osamor MP

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