Fighting malaria from Geneva

01 Sep 2022

 Samanta Siegfried

One World magazine

Photo: Emma Houston Xinhua/eyevine/laif

Geneva is considered the world's health capital. The close-knit nature of the cooperation between various international stakeholders is demonstrated by the example of the fight against malaria.

"Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, if not before, we have become aware of the importance of a multilateral approach to tackling the health crisis," says Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations in Geneva. Health is an interdisciplinary topic that also touches on human rights and development cooperation.

"In Geneva, key stakeholders work together successfully and find real-world answers to global health problems," says Lauber. For example, when it comes to defeating malaria. Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a public-private partnership, coordinates the research, development and introduction of new antimalarial medicines from its base in Geneva.

The organisation's network, which also receives support from the SDC, is made up of around 400 pharmaceutical, academic, NGO, authority and endemic-country partners. Working together in this way helps to reduce costs and gives those in need access to affordable, quality-controlled medication. To date, the MMV has helped launch 14 new antimalarial medicines, and almost 3 million lives have been saved in the process.

One of the projects the MMV is working on at present involves facilitating access to antimalarials by pregnant women, one of the main risk groups. Because of the risk to both the mother and her unborn child, pregnant women are given preventive treatment using sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP). "Right now, there are many obstacles to accessing this particular medication," says Maud Majeres Lugand, MMV's Associate Director of Social Research. These include stock-outs and the difficulty of reaching clinics.

An MMV project funded by Unitaid seeks to enable African manufacturers to produce this antimalarial medicine. Lugand explains that one of the problems in countries badly affected by malaria is that substandard SP is widespread and sometimes mistakenly used to treat the disease rather than as a preventive measure. "The availability of locally produced and quality-controlled SP could help force products of lesser or unknown quality off the market," says Lugand.

Supporting African manufacturers should help the continent to become self-sufficient, as well as improving the stability of global supply. "During the corona crisis, we saw how serious it is when global supply chains are interrupted."

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