The Lives and Livelihoods Fund, a $2.5bn initiative led by the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has closed its first deal with a $32m agreement to help end malaria in Senegal.
The investment, which will go towards a government-run eradication campaign, will help to train healthcare workers, fund anti-malarial drugs, and deliver 2.5 million insecticide-treated bed nets to at-risk people in the west African country.
The aim is to move Senegal - which has seen malaria prevalence fall by more than half since 2008 - from controlling to eradicating the disease.
The fund's chair Maher Al-Hadrawi said the agreement marked a “major milestone” for the fund in its efforts to “lift the poorest people in the Muslim world out of poverty”.
“Eradicating malaria will enable millions of people to lead healthy and productive lives,” he said in an emailed statement.
Thanks to sustained global efforts, malaria deaths have fallen by 29 per cent since 2010, and half the world is now free of the mosquito-borne parasite. In Africa, where the vast majority of malaria deaths occur, the malaria death rate has declined by more than 31 per cent.
Yet there is still much to do to end the disease. Despite a 10-fold rise in funding for malaria eradication to 2010, in 2015, less than half of the required $6.4bn target was secured, with the US and UK accounting for more than 50 per cent of the money pledged.
If global targets of achieving a 40 per cent reduction in malaria incidence and mortality by 2020 are to be achieved, “total funding must increase substantially”, the World Health Organisation said.
Other concerns include the spread of antimalarial drug resistance and the falling effectiveness of insecticides.
Launched in September, the Lives and Livelihoods Fund aims to reduce poverty and disease in 30 of the poorest Muslim states, through a mix of loans and grant funding. Of the 1 billion people living in absolute poverty globally, around 400 million live in Muslim countries. Efforts to tackle the root causes of poverty in these states, however, can be hindered by a lack of cheap funding.
Through the fund, the IsDB will extend up to $2bn in loans over the next five years, for projects in health, agriculture and infrastructure. The Gates Foundation has so far raised $400m of a planned $500m in grants to shrink the interest payments on the loans, including putting in $100m itself.
Other donors include the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development ($100m), the Qatar Fund for Development ($50m), the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development ($50m), and the King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Centre ($100m). – PA