GENEVA/NEW YORK, April 25, 2002 - In celebrating Africa Malaria Day, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization and other Roll Back Malaria partners have commended a new government-led initiative that is providing rapid, appropriate, effective and affordable malaria treatment to poor populations in some African countries.
The Home Based Management approach to the treatment of malaria is a simple and effective initiative that is revolutionizing the treatment of malaria, putting knowledge and essential drugs into the hands of those who need them most - mothers, caregivers and neighbours.
"Getting the right drugs quickly to sick children would save many of the nearly one million lives lost each year to malaria," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "But for most African children - who are the main victims of this devastating disease - the drugs are either not available, not affordable or not effective."
Home Based Management has been tried in selected areas in several African countries with good results. In Ethiopia, the provision of basic training and simple antimalarial drugs to mothers to treat their sick children at home reduced under-five mortality by 40 per cent. In Nigeria, pre-packaging of anti-malarial drugs, with the correct dose for the age of the child, was shown to double the proportion of children who received proper treatment.
Combining prompt treatment with preventive measures such as insecticide treated nets (ITNs) will result in an even greater number of lives saved. In many countries ITNs have been shown to reduce childhood mortality by up to 25 per cent, and reduce malaria cases by about 50 per cent.
Uganda is leading the way with a Home Based Management programme that has been tested in three districts and is being launched as its official 'National Treatment Policy for Malaria' on April 25, Africa Malaria Day. Uganda is one of the first countries to introduce a national policy for the home management of malaria.
There are plans to expand Home Based Management in other malaria-endemic countries in Africa, starting in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia. But countries will need the political commitment and additional resources to take such strategies to a national scale.
This is a concrete example of one of the successful initiatives that will be presented to world leaders for their endorsement and support as they meet in New York from 8-10 May for the General Assembly Special Session on Children. Some 60 Heads of State or Government have already confirmed to attend the Special Session with delegations coming from over 170 nations.
With Home Based Management, every village or community will have at least one volunteer trained to recognize the symptoms of malaria and provide the appropriate drugs to treat it. The volunteers are mainly chosen from within their communities and are committed to making a difference.
"Instead of walking miles to reach a health centre and then waiting for hours, mothers will soon be able to knock on a neighbour's door to get the help they need," assured Bellamy.
Across Africa, malaria is a problem of staggering proportions and appalling statistics. It is estimated that 300 - 500 million people are infected each year. At least one million die from the disease every year, most of them children. Providing prompt access to effective antimalarial treatment is one of the major strategies for reducing the tremendous burden of malaria on children and pregnant women.
The goal is to ensure that, by 2005, at least 60 per cent of those suffering from malaria have prompt access to affordable and appropriate treatment within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. African leaders at the Abuja Summit on Roll Back Malaria endorsed this target in April 2000.
UNICEF works closely with WHO and other Roll Back Malaria partners to support governments and communities in their efforts to combat the disease. Through its country programmes UNICEF is providing support to malaria control initiatives in over 40 countries, mostly in Africa. Last year UNICEF procured over $5 million worth of nets and insecticides, with the aim of protecting pregnant women and young children in over 15 countries in Africa. In addition, UNICEF's support to community IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) in 12 countries has helped to empower families and has enabled communities to access treatment for malaria.
For more information, contact:
Mohammad Jalloh, Communication Officer, UNICEF, New York. Tel. (212) 326 7516, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo Bailey, Communication Officer, UNICEF, New York,
Tel. (212) 326-7566, email@example.com