Like many, I started 2017 by reflecting on the previous 12 months and setting resolutions for the year ahead. And just as many resolution-makers focus on exercise or eating better, my goals also concern health. I work to help ExxonMobil overcome threats to the health and productivity of our employees, from workplace injuries to mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria.
My malaria resolution – to ensure that our workplace malaria-control program continues to protect our employees and aids the global malaria response – is informed by the World Malaria Report recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report reminds us of recent successes, as well as the obstacles standing in the way of the ultimate goal of ending malaria for good.
Global progress has been remarkable. Major decreases in mortality rates have saved 6.8 million lives since 2001, and the WHO certified six countries malaria-free over the last decade. These huge accomplishments are an encouraging reminder that ending malaria is possible.
But we have work ahead of us. After more than a decade of steep declines in the case count, there were about the same number of cases in 2015 as in 2014 – more than 200 million, resulting in an estimated 429,000 deaths. Emerging drug- and pesticide resistance, not to mention resource challenges, threaten to reverse momentum.
It will take continued dedication from partners across the public and private sectors to end malaria, and I am proud that ExxonMobil supports these efforts.
More broadly, the ExxonMobil Foundation’s programs further stretch the impact of these efforts. The Foundation has established partnerships to help communities understand their risks and strengthen the health systems that deliver lifesaving care or track drug resistance.
These have produced tangible results. Since 2000, our investments helped distribute 13.9 million bed nets and 2.6 million rapid diagnostic kits, trained more than 520,000 healthcare workers, and helped develop three pediatric anti-malarial drugs.
We have to stay focused to ensure that these numbers keep going in the right direction. Progress is fragile without sustained effort, but I am resolute that our goals are achievable if we continue to invest in individuals, communities, and solutions in 2017 and beyond.
Dr. Buford is global medical director for ExxonMobil.