Some diseases are expensive to cure. Others, such as malaria, are relatively cheap to treat and prevent. For instance, an insecticide-sprayed tent draped over a bed to prevent mosquito bites costs less than Dh40. Given the wealth of the Gulf, it seems unthinkable that malaria remains endemic in neighbouring countries such as Yemen, where poverty, conflict and a lack of resources have prevented health organisations from eradicating what is a preventable disease.
As we report today, a new Dh91 million donation from the Government of Abu Dhabi may help to change that. Roll Back Malaria, a global initiative supported by the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the World Bank, received the aid to help meet its 2020 target of eliminating malaria on the Arabian Peninsula. Though its levels of malaria are far lower than in many parts of Africa and Asia, Yemen is the last stronghold for infected mosquitos in the immediate region. This remains a nagging concern for health officials in other nations, determined to keep their countries malaria-free. The threat poses a particular danger to Saudi Arabia's population, which according to its Ministry of Health, has seen cases of malaria along its borders.
But in order for Yemen to eradicate malaria, it needs more than just nets, sprays, or money; it needs its own institutions to forge what must be a long-term effort. For instance, the UAE retains a Malaria Control Department nearly four decades after its eradication programme began and three years after country was declared free of the diesease. Besides improving the health and longevity of Yemen's population, eliminating malaria there may also prove powerful in the fight far beyond its borders. Bodies such as Roll Back Malaria could divert resources to higher-risk countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia, where malaria claims more than 300,000 lives per year.
Malaria may appear to be a lesser scourge than many of Yemen's other struggles; its persistence only serves to compound them.