This is just my second day at UNICEF, but it makes sense that my first public statement helps make the case for fighting a largely preventable and utterly treatable disease. It is a disease that that kills one child in sub-Saharan Africa every 30 seconds. The numbers are astounding, and unacceptable. Globally, more than 1 million people die due to malaria every year, the vast majority of them young children under the age of five. Hundreds of millions more suffer from bouts of sickness.
Indeed, children who do survive can be left anaemic or with permanent learning disabilities, both of which have major impact on their healthy growth and development. We can help to change these numbers, and the lives behind them. As my colleagues will make clear, actions by governments and by the partners over the last few years have put the world in position to make major strides against malaria.
Far more of the most effective drugs (known as ACTs) are coming to market next year, and the production and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets is surging. We have some examples of them hanging in the lobby so you can see what they look like. And with more money being committed to the effort, including last week’s new pledge by the World Bank, we have created an opportunity to greatly improve coverage of prevention and treatment.
It is worth noting that in the 1960s and 1970s considerable progress had been made against malaria. But over the past 20 years or so we have seen malaria make a comeback. This time we must not only subdue malaria, but remain vigilant and persistent in keeping it under control.
I agree with the Millennium Project led by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs that we have the opportunity to make major strides in reducing the number of cases of malaria, and the number of deaths. Certainly we must do so if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Investing in malaria control makes good sense. We will work to ensure that UNICEF continues to do its part to combat a disease that kills children and undermines development.
We are working with the World Health Organization and all the Roll Back Malaria partners toward that objective.
Now please allow me to introduce UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam, who along with Dr. Nafo Traore ,will present to you the key findings of the report.
I look forward to spending more time with all of you in the coming weeks and months.