NEW YORK, 25 April 2012 – Despite great progress in the fight against malaria, the disease remains the third largest killer of children globally, UNICEF said today on World Malaria Day.
Malaria, which takes the lives of nearly 700,000 people every year, is also geographically concentrated, with over 90 per cent of deaths occurring in Africa, where it is responsible for about one in six child deaths.
“It is unacceptable that today more than 1,500 children will die as the result of a mosquito bite,” said Mickey Chopra, UNICEF Chief of Health. “Malaria is preventable and curable, but we must step up our efforts to distribute insecticide-treated nets to those who need them and to strengthen integrated community case management.”
Studies have shown that when there are enough insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) in the community and children are sleeping under one every night, child mortality can be reduced by up to 20 per cent. In addition, malaria is curable as long as it is diagnosed early enough and treated with appropriate anti-malarial treatment.
Unfortunately, many children, especially in Africa, still die from malaria because they do not sleep under insecticide-treated nets and are unable to access life-saving treatment within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. Waiting even six hours for treatment can mean life or death to a child sick with malaria.
In support of the UN Secretary General’s goal of achieving universal coverage with malaria interventions, UNICEF promotes widespread, free net distributions to the poorest, most remote areas, capitalizing on strategic moments such as routine immunizations and ante-natal check-ups for pregnant women.
UNICEF is also stepping up its efforts in integrated community case management which provides a life-saving package of interventions to ensure children and their families receive effective protection and medications close to home.
Over the last decade, it is estimated that enough nets were delivered to cover approximately 80 per cent of country-stated need in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, many of these nets are reaching the end of their useful life and need urgently to be replaced.
UNICEF supports national governments and partners to ensure high coverage with long-lasting insecticidal nets, anti-malarial treatment and diagnostics through the procurement of highly effective Artemisinin-based combination therapies and rapid diagnostics tests.
UNICEF is taking a lead on helping communities change their behaviors such that they use their nets every night, that they seek treatment for fevers quickly after the onset of symptoms and respect diagnostic outcomes.
Fighting Malaria not only saves the lives of children, but also yields many other health and economic benefits for affected communities. For example, eliminating malaria reduces the burden on over-stretched health centers and enables communities to lead healthier and more productive lives. Reducing malaria improves the health of pregnant mothers and therefore improves the health of their babies.
Controlling malaria can also impact the numbers of people who die of malnutrition as those already weakened from lack of food are more likely to die if they contract malaria.
However the gains and successes built on strong partnerships and the generous contributions of many donors are extremely fragile, even countries which had already reduced their malaria burdens by up to 50% can quickly see increased cases if aging nets are not replaced.
UNICEF is one of the world’s largest global procurer and deliverer of long lasting insecticide treated nets with 25 million procured in 2011 in over 40 countries. The number of nets procured by UNICEF is 25 times greater today than in 2000. Long lasting insecticide-treated nets do not require re-treatment. UNICEF also procured 26 million ACTs and 11.5 million RDTs in 2011. UNICEF is also a recognized leader in monitoring and evaluation of malaria control activities. We use our skills in communication for development, operational research, procurement and supply management, and skills transfer honed in supporting malaria programmes to ensuring good outcomes for children and their mothers across a range of maternal and child health interventions, thereby driving progress on the MDGs.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For further information, please contact:
Christian Moen, UNICEF Media New York, +1 212 326 7516, firstname.lastname@example.org