Youngest UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador calls for stronger partnerships to cut malaria deaths in half by 2010
KILIMANJARO/NEW YORK, 6 August 2004 – On his first visit as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador, Chinese virtuoso pianist Lang Lang said Tanzania is a shining example of what governments and local communities can do in the fight against malaria – a disease which currently kills over one million people every year, most of them under five years old and living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is responsible for one in four global child deaths. These deaths could be prevented by means which are simple, effective and available. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets can reduce deaths by at least 20 percent and the newest anti-malarial drug is almost 100% effective against the disease. But these solutions are still being denied to the vast majority of the world’s poor.
Tanzania is making an effort to protect its six million children by finding solutions that are sustainable even in the poorest communities.
“The Tanzanian people have shown me that the long-term solution to malaria lies where the problem is most keenly felt – at community level,” said Lang Lang during a four-day tour of the country with UNICEF. “But communities need the support of their national governments, and international donors to give them vital tools to fight this disease. We have to fortify our partnerships against malaria to guarantee a better future for children”
Lang Lang is in Tanzania to learn more about the efforts being initiated in the fight against the disease. Appointed in May as UNICEF’s youngest goodwill ambassador, at just 21 years old, Lang Lang’s main area of focus will be to raise awareness on the challenges of combating malaria and other childhood diseases.
In the shadows of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Hai District, Lang Lang visited Rundugai village where he was able to participate in a village health day. As he awarded prizes (insecticide treated nets) to mothers and children who have maintained excellent health records, Lang Lang was brought face to face with the communities’ success stories in the fight against malaria.
“These communities fear malaria as the biggest killer of young children in Africa,” he said. “But they have proved that with innovative and community based interventions, deaths can be lowered significantly.”
One such intervention is the voucher scheme, which allows for pregnant women and young mothers to buy affordable insecticide treated nets through a subsidy system. This system has proved to be an effective tool in the management of malaria illness at the community level, providing prompt and effective management of malaria illness for young children.
UNICEF and partners are supporting programs like these to reach the targets for malaria reduction set out in the Millennium Development Goals which call for the world to halve the number of malaria deaths and ensure that 60 per cent of all people at risk of malaria, especially children and women, sleep under insecticide-treated nets. If every African child under five years slept under an insecticide-treated bed net, costing only $4, nearly 500,000 child deaths could be prevented every year.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership established in 1998, combines the efforts of WHO, UNICEF, The World Bank, UNDP and other partners in the fight against the disease.
Specific interventions aimed at reducing the burden of malaria for young children and women include:
Cognizant of this, UNICEF is working with all its partners towards stated targets while ensuring the allocation of necessary resources from private and public sectors and from non-governmental organizations. UNICEF also works with governments and community groups to provide access to education and information on crucial health issues.
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