Monday, 7 April 2014

World Health Day

Today is World Health Day – and the focus for this year is "Small Bite: Big Threat" and it focuses on the problems caused by Malaria. As well as being a personal health tragedy, Malaria is also responsible for economic problems and is the reason why so many in the developing world do not live to fulfil their full potential. 

80% of cases and 90% of deaths happen in Africa, so it is naturally the place we are able to see the largest negative impact caused by the disease. The disease costs the continent £8bn every single year, slows growth by around 1.3% in Malaria-high countries and 72% of companies in sub-Saharan Africa have reported a negative impact on their businesses as the result of malaria.

It is important that we think about Malaria in these economic and business terms as well as in terms of the tragedy to the individual and their family. The more we are able to reduce the impact of Malaria, the more the developing world will be able to stand on its own two feet in the fight against it.

The impact on family finances is also devastating, with many families spending around 25% of their income fighting it. How are young people supposed to fulfil their potential if their families are spending such a high proportion of their income combating this disease?

50% of deaths in African schoolchildren are caused by the disease, around half of preventable absenteeism in caused by it and up to 10 million school days are missed as the result of malaria.

However there are some positives to take – child deaths from malaria have halved since the year 2000. This is a remarkable achievement, and it must continue apace.

I will be attending an event this evening in Parliament to hear more about the problems caused by the disease, what we should be doing to prevent it, and the plans ahead of World Malaria Day on the 25th of April.