Tropical Diseases

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th December 1999.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford 12:00 am, 8th December 1999

What steps are being taken to help developing countries combat malaria and other endemic tropical diseases. [100351]

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

Malaria is one of the world's biggest killers. One million people die as a result of it each year—90 per cent. in Africa and many of them children. The World Health Organisation is leading a roll back malaria campaign more systematically to apply the best treatment and prevention methods. We have committed £60 million to this programme. We are working with others on polio. I made an announcement of our final tranche of commitment today: polio will be eradicated from the world within five years. That is about to be achieved, and it will be a wonderful achievement. We are also working to improve TB treatment and AIDS prevention and supporting the elimination of river blindness in Africa and elephantiasis worldwide.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. As the overwhelming emphasis of interest of pharmaceutical companies lies in diseases of the developing world, and given that expertise in developing medically useful drugs lies almost exclusively with those companies, will my right hon. Friend consider meeting them to discuss how the development of relevant drugs for tropical diseases might be given greater emphasis in future?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

Yes, indeed; my hon. Friend is absolutely right. All the science, skills and research lie with the big pharmaceutical companies. The poverty of the countries that need new drugs means that the market will not bring those drugs to the people. I have already met Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham. We talked with the World Bank about the way in which we can get the public and private sectors working together both to engage in research and to bring products to the market. I am pleased to say that there is some co-operation. That is part of the WHO's roll back malaria campaign. We need new drugs because an immunity is developing to the existing drugs.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, because of global warming, there are projections that the malaria area will spread northwards and southwards? Given that, what assessment has she made of the economic impact of the United Nations, decision that DDT might be banned in future, will have on developing nations?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Malaria is spreading, including dangerous forms of it that go straight to the brain and can kill quickly. In the interests of people in the developing world and of ourselves, we need to roll back malaria. The systematic application of what we know—such as bed nets for children with the appropriate chemicals on them—can massively reduce the incidence. I have not examined the DDT question specifically. We are putting a great deal of effort into the roll back malaria campaign. I am optimistic that we can reduce the incidence of malaria, thus preventing the spread and saving many lives in the developing world.