Malaria Is a Top Focus of the ExxonMobil Foundation. Here's Who It's Funding

The ExxonMobil Foundation has been around since 1955, but it didn’t begin working on malarial issues until around 2000. In fact, the Foundation is so dead set on eradicating this preventable scourge that it dedicates virtually all of its annual global health funding to its prevention, treatment and extermination.

ExxonMobil awards around $15 million in grants out of its global health program. Of that, over 80 percent is dedicated to malaria. Earlier this year, on World Malaria Day, the foundation announced more than $10 million in grants that included increasing overall funding to close to 20 organizations. The big grant winner was the Harvard School of Public Health, which received close to $1.7 million over eight grants.

Harvard applied the majority of Exxon’s grant money, around $1 million, to its Malaria Initiative program. The remaining funds were applied to a number of malarial issues including leadership development, a cost-effectiveness evaluation of interventions in Angola, a fellowship program, a scholar-in-residence program, and malaria in pregnancy interventions.

Of course, ExxonMobil’s malaria funding isn’t reserved for higher education institutions. The foundation’s giving is pretty diverse and has recently included organizations such as: 

  • Malaria No More, which received $1.75 million over two grants. The money went toward the support of emergency malaria relief efforts in Chad, as well as advocacy and prevention initiatives in Chad and Nigeria.
  • Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University received a $1.5 million toward the support of its Malaria in Pregnancy intervention program.
  • Africare, which received around $1.4 million over four grants to support the organizations intervention and prevention programs.
  • Grassrooots Soccer, a largely HIV focused NGO, received $1.2 million over two grants toward the support of its Malaria Prevention and Sports Curriculum.

What makes ExxonMobil a little different than other big malaria funders such as the Gates Foundation is that while Gates largely focuses its malarial efforts on malaria control and elimination through biomedical research and other studies, Exxon takes a more varied approach.  

Sure, the Foundation awards a lot of big grants to Harvard’s Malaria Initiative, which of course, aims to eradicate the disease. It also funds more traditional prevention agendas like the UN Foundation’s Nothing but Nets and Population Services International’s Bednet Distribution programs.

But ExxonMobil also awards a good number of grants to other issues that are often overlooked by larger NGOs, such as its $250,000 grant to the Business Coalition against Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in Cameroon’s Malaria Prevention in the Workplace program and its $300,000 grant to Rode Kors’ Mobile Phone Malaria Survey.

ExxonMobil’s malaria funding for organization’s that may be using more unconventional or overlooked methods of fighting for the same cause may sound great, but there’s a downside. The foundation isn't that accessible (it doesn’t accept unsolicited grant applications), nor is it very transparent about how malaria research fundraisers can get on its radar. That's really too bad, because surely there are a number of innovative malaria prevention, education, and treatment ideas floating around out in the world.

We understand that funders are afraid of being deluged with proposals. But in an age where disruptive, groundbreaking ideas can come from many places, it pays to keep the door open. 

Related: ExxonMobil Foundation: Grants for Global Health