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UK, Bill Gates Will Spend $1.5 Billion on Malaria

The U.K. government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are creating a 1 billion pound fund to combat malaria and other fast-spreading infections diseases. →

The U.K. government, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is creating a 1 billion pound (roughly $1.5 billion) fund to combat malaria and other fast-spreading infectious diseases.

Malaria remains a major problem in Africa, where one child dies from the disease every minute. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the vast majority of malaria cases globally, and over 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur there, according to the World Health Organization.

While these numbers are down significantly from just 10 years ago, they show that Africa and the global community have much work to do when it comes to stamping out this lethal disease.

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The Ross Fund - so named for Sir Ronald Ross, who won a Nobel prize in 1902 for discovering that malaria is spread by mosquitos - will be used to research new ways to halt the spread of malaria and other infectious disease. It will also devote money to creating more efficient systems for handling major outbreaks like Ebola, reports the BBC.

Malaria used to have a wider global reach - as recently as 1930 it infected 5 million Americans a year - but urbanization in wealthier countries crowded mosquitos out. Malls replaced bogs and swamps and the bug's breeding grounds disappeared, largely taking the disease with it, writes Sonia Shah in Orion.

So the disease became the province of the poor, flourishing where money didn't. The West still tried to help by blanketing countries with DDT and other chemicals. The approach killed some mosquitos, but ultimately made the problem worse by creating roving bands of DDT-resistant insects.

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Frustrated by these bionic bugs, the World Health Organization abandoned their malaria-fighting efforts in 1972, continues Shah.

The Ross Fund is built on the idea that a "healthy, prosperous world is in Britain's interest," the UK's International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, told the BBC.

And if recent history serves as a guide, the new initiative could help create a healthier and more prosperous world. Thanks to renewed efforts to fight the disease, malaria death rates have already fallen by 60 percent since 2000.

In Madagascar, about 500 people every year contract the plague.