This is the first study that tracks DAH and GHE specifically for malaria eliminating countries from 1990 to 2014 with projections to 2017. This study also makes use of enhanced methods providing a more comprehensive tracking of DAH and GHE than has previously been utilized in other studies. The findings clearly demonstrate a growing uncertainty about the future availability of DAH for malaria elimination. At the same time, while government health expenditures have steadily increased, they have not kept pace with the declining DAH. Many malaria-eliminating countries could risk facing significant funding gaps, which can increase the risk of malaria resurgence highlighting the need for an interim solution until the economies of these countries have sufficiently grown to fill the gap.
The findings demonstrate three periods for DAH for malaria: a period of moderate growth in the 1990s, accelerated growth in the first decade of the 2000s of 97%, and a decline of 65% since 2010. In the 35 countries included in this review, total financing for malaria grew from $179.5 million to $301.7 million between 2000 and 2013 of which DAH accounted for 19% in 2013. DAH began to decline in 2011, coinciding with the Global Fund’s decision to halt its 11th grant cycle. During this period, DAH declined by 65% in the 35 malaria-eliminating countries overall and is projected to further decline through 2017.
The new allocation methodology adopted by the Global Fund in 2012, uses a combination of disease burden and GNI per capita to determine the financing that countries will receive for the three diseases. Under this New Funding Model, country-specific funding to the sub-set of countries attempting to eliminate malaria has declined by over 30% . Further declines in allocations have been noted under a revised model adopted in November 2016. These changing polices have major implications for the financing and delivery of health services, particularly for malaria elimination. Eliminating countries typically have lower disease burdens and are often middle-income countries and therefore tend to be less attractive investments for donors looking for easy to measure high impact results. Of the 35 countries included in this review, 2 are high-income countries, 15 are upper middle income, 14 are lower middle income, and 3 are lower income (no data was available on Mayotte). Eighteen of these countries are ineligible to receive Global Fund financing. Three countries have graduated from Global Fund malaria financing in the past 6 years: China (2011), Dominican Republic (2013) and Iran (2012) and one country transitioned out of Global Fund support in 2016 (Paraguay). Sri Lanka, which attained malaria-free certification by WHO in September 2016 and Botswana, will receive one more transitional grant from the Global Fund. The Philippines submitted their final proposal for funding in the first quarter of 2017 together with a transition plan for sustainable financing. Several other countries are approaching one or more donor eligibility thresholds in the next few years. Although the majority of funding in these countries comes from domestic sources, DAH still plays an important role in the delivery of health interventions, particularly to vulnerable populations that are often underserved by the government health system. Donors such as the Global Fund will need to continue to prioritize these populations to deliver on its 2017–2022 Global Fund Strategy, which aims to achieve progress toward a world free of the burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The Global Fund continued to provide the largest source of DAH to malaria-endemic countries accounting for over 90% of all external financing. It is not possible to unpack donor contributions specifically to malaria disbursed by the Global Fund, however, in general, the US government provides 35% of all funding, the United Kingdom, 16%, France, 9% and non-official sources including foundations and charities, 6%. A more diverse set of donors including the World Bank and various bilateral donors played a larger role in the malaria agenda prior to the establishment of the Global Fund. For example, Australia played a major role in funding malaria control in the Pacific Islands; however, this funding has been drastically reduced since with the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade replacing Australian Aid whose new Health for Development Strategy 2015–2020  focuses on health as development with little on disease-specific funding.
Across the 35 countries included in this review, GHE almost doubled between 2000 and 2010, ultimately resulting in about $249 million in 2014 (excluding South Africa as an outlier). In most countries, the upward GHE trend between 2008 and 2014 has been maintained or increased. Nine countries included in the review (Algeria, El Salvador, Guatemala, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, ROK, Saudi Arabia) are entirely domestically financed.
DAH was disaggregated into 13 service delivery areas allowing for cross-country and regional comparisons. The observed trends in spending or allocation by service delivery area are not uniform or consistent with epidemiological profiles or regional policies demonstrating the need for greater emphasis on allocative efficiency. Vector control, mostly bed nets continues to be the largest cost driver across all regions, followed predominately by treatment costs.
Thirty-one of 35 countries spent less than 10% of their malaria DAH funding on surveillance, a key malaria elimination intervention between 2010 and 2013. The ratio of DAH expenditure on diagnosis versus treatment increased after 2008 reaching a 50% split in most countries by 2013 bringing countries closer to compliance with WHO’s Test: Treat: Track policy. Notable exceptions are Honduras, Tajikistan, and Thailand with minimal expenditure on diagnosis. As actual cases decrease, expenditure on diagnosis is expected to be at least twice the spending on treatment. However, discrepancies between use of DAH for certain service delivery areas and strategy for malaria elimination could be explained by governments using DAH to fund allowable expenses and GHE to pay for the rest, for example procurement of diagnostics. Nevertheless, the analysis does raise the question on whether DAH is being spent on the most effective strategies for malaria elimination.
Morel and colleagues noted, “it is important to ask whether current interventions are used appropriately and what is the most cost-effective way to scale up activities to the levels needed” . With declining DAH, available resource will need to be used more efficiently. This would include focusing the needs of the malaria programme on the most effective interventions coupled with better targeting of intervention delivery to strategic populations to maximize value-for-money and prevent drug and insecticide resistance and from available resources . At the same time, there is a need to move donor funding for malaria control away from an input model that mostly focuses on the procurement and distribution of key inputs (most notably mosquito nets) towards more support for operational improvements, capacity building in programme management, improved disease and intervention surveillance as well as knowledge generation and sharing to strengthen the impact of elimination interventions.
The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria estimated that USD 6.8 billion will be needed annually to reduce malaria related morbidity and mortality by 90% between 2015 and 2030 and projected gaps of more than half of this financing need. Although gains in health system efficiency can be used to make reduce the discrepancy between available finances and need, current trends suggest that many countries may face gaps in financing for malaria elimination. If increasing domestic health financing is the solution, countries will need to increase their own spending on malaria beyond historical trends. The expectation of the economic and health financing transition suggests that as countries develop they spend more on health than they did before. Of 35 currently low-income and middle-income countries, included in this review, 22 countries currently meet the Chatham House goal of spending 5% of GDP or $86 per capita on health .
There are several complementary ways for countries to fill the gap between needs and resources until government allocations catch up with the financing transition. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda calls on a number of resource mobilization efforts encompassing aid, domestic public resources, and support from the private sector. Many national governments are considering raising health budgets by improving the capacity to raise tax revenue including the implementation of Pigovian or sin taxes. In the Philippines, the Sin Tax Reform Bill, passed in 2012, increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol, generating USD 2.3 billion within 2 years increasing the Department of Health budget by 63% in 2015. This revenue has freed up resources, which would have otherwise been used for social protection of the poor and has trickled down for use for malaria and other diseases targeted for elimination.
Two other areas of resource mobilization which have had limited traction are better harnessing of private financing as well as innovative approaches, such as social impact bonds, airline and financial transactions taxes. Blended approaches which refer to the use of funds to leverage or de-risk private investment in development are increasingly being explored. Although there are no current estimates on their scale, these financing instruments have been used with success in other sectors within and outside of health and have the potential to catalyse future additional private sector support.
The Roll Back Malaria Action for Investment in Malaria (AIM) suggests that investment in malaria could deliver strong health benefits through fewer deaths and less illness that can be valued at over $49 billion. These benefits exceed investment costs by a factor of 40 over the period to 2030 . Focused advocacy at all levels is needed to reach key decision-makers in order to highlight the social and economic benefits of investing in malaria elimination and the risks of not doing so. In particular, emphasis on the threat of drug resistance in undermining success and posing a risk of regional health security is needed. Continued engagement is needed with governments to focus attention on increased domestic budgets.
This analysis has several limitations. Many of the DAH expenditures could not be allocated to specific interventions, therefore introducing a potential bias. In addition, the spending by governments could not be further disaggregated by intervention area and it is possible that DAH was spent on particular interventions due to co-financing of others through domestic sources. Estimates of domestic expenditures on malaria were obtained from sources which relied on self-reporting by countries with little triangulation of data and the findings should therefore be interpreted as such.
Nevertheless, the findings provide strong evidence on the uncertainty about the future availability of DAH in malaria elimination settings and the wide variation in support for malaria programmes by governments . Many malaria-eliminating countries could risk facing funding gaps, which could be compounded if countries face funding cliffs with multiple donors phasing out simultaneously. These disruptions in service delivery could also confer negative cross-border externalities to neighbouring countries, compromising regional elimination targets and ultimately global eradication.