Health

Nations unite for World Malaria Day 2008

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/ HQ04-1261/ Pirozzi
A woman unfurls an insecticide-treated mosquito net over a child’s bed in the village of Pari, near Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

By Anwulika Okafor

NEW YORK, USA, 24 April 2008 – Ten years after UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and their partners launched the Roll Back Malaria initiative, malaria is still the single largest child killer in Africa. The disease takes the lives of some 3,000 children per day.

Of the more than 350 million people who are infected with malaria every year, 90 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa. Work done by the Roll Back Malaria partners has brought millions of children and their families increased access to health and prevention tools, but the threat remains.

These partners, along with governments and public and private-sector organizations, will come together on 25 April, World Malaria Day 2008, in an effort ramp up global action to combat the disease.

‘Curable and preventable’

In malaria-endemic nations, governments spend as much as 40 per cent of their public health expenditures on malaria. This spending, which can be crippling to economic development, is still not enough to cover both treatment and prevention measures – including improved water and sanitation facilities, increased insecticide spraying and the mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs).

“It is unacceptable that malaria still kills more than 1 million people, mostly children, every year,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “Malaria is a curable and preventable disease that can be controlled by increasing the use of mosquito nets and other proven interventions as part of integrated, community-based programmes.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ95-1050/Pirozzi
World Malaria Day is observed annually to spur global action on the disease, which kills 3,000 children every day. Above, a mother awaits treatment for her malaria-infected daughter.

With the assistance of partners such as the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department and the Government of Japan, UNICEF has become the largest procurer and distributor of ITNs, having provided more than 18 million nets is 2007. The nets drastically reduce malarial infections.

The Roll Back Malaria partners have also funded and participated in local and national health drives, spreading awareness about the importance of malaria prevention and early treatment. These efforts have gone a long way, but an increase in sustained funding is necessary to allow the partners to build on their success.

A disease without borders

Malaria is endemic in 107 countries and territories where 40 per cent of the world’s population lives. It is truly a disease without borders, the theme for World Malaria Day this year.

“In Ethiopia, 18 million long-lasting insecticidal nets that protect against malaria have been distributed since 2005, and in Kenya 10 million nets have been distributed in the past five years,” noted Ms. Veneman. “These successes show what can be achieved with concerted action. But with 800,000 African children dying from malaria every year, it is clear that much remains to be done.”

It will cost an estimated $3.2 billion to achieve global control of malaria. Through increased public and private commitments and partnerships, Roll Back Malaria has raised $1 billion so far.

Investments in malaria control would greatly assist endemic nations in reaching the Millennium Development Goals on extreme poverty and child mortality. Achieving these benchmarks and rolling back malaria, however, will require the commitment of the entire community of nations.


 

 

Video

23 April 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on malaria’s devastating effects and efforts made to prevent it.
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UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, UN Foundation President Tim Wirth, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Bishop Thomas Bickerton and Youth Service America President Steven Culbertson speak at a UN press conference on the fight against malaria.
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UNICEF Senior Health Advisor for Malaria Melanie Renshaw discusses the organization’s role in World Malaria Day and the global fight against the disease.
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