Baroness Chalker of Wallasey addresses House of Lords on MDGs

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey addresses House of Lords on MDGs

"Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I much welcome this debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I particularly welcome the maiden speech that we will hear from my noble friend Lord Bates. I was born a Bates, so we have a certain link, although, I hasten to add, it is not a blood link. In three minutes, I shall touch on three aspects of the millennium development goals: first, malaria; secondly, maternal mortality; and, thirdly, the whole problem of the supply chain for medicines, particularly in Africa, which underlies all the rest of the millennium goals.

First, I am delighted that we have ended the high-level event on the MDGs at the mid-point to the 2015 deadline with the news that $3 billion will be spent on malaria, as well as $4.5 billion on education. I say that because more lives can be saved through the better application of the available healthcare and diagnostic tests to fight malaria, to which we give little attention. I am chairman of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, which is developing new malaria drugs. In the next few months, it will launch Coartem® Dispersible, which is cherry flavoured specially for children. I am particularly interested in making sure that the drugs reach the children, as that is one of the biggest problems that we face. To eradicate malaria we must scale up our efforts massively, including by developing new and better tools of diagnosis. That also touches on training, to which I shall turn in a moment.

The UK has made big commitments towards the MDGs and the £40 million to support the affordable medicines facility for malaria is extremely welcome. In addition, the commitment to increase malaria research and development funding to at least £5 million a year by 2010 and to provide 20 million of the 120 million bed nets that are needed is a good step forward, but I fear that much more needs to be done. In industry, we know that that must happen.

Under MDG 4, improving maternal health is vital. That also turns on better provision of primary healthcare. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for mentioning my foundation, the Chalker Foundation for Africa, of which I am a patron. We sponsored a young Kenyan doctor, who is now working in Turkana, by paying for his education. We have a Ugandan doctor training in Poland. We are also funding basic level health workers. Finally, please will the department take action about the supply chain of medicines, which for Global Fund supplies, I am reliably informed, is being sent through the UN, whose supply chain expertise needs much improvement?"

Read the full text of the debates on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Lords Hansard (UK Parliament transcript for 7 October 2008)