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‘Unite Against Malaria’ – Africa Malaria Day 2005

© UNICEF/ HQ00-0162/Pirozzi
A boy toddler, sick with a fever from malaria, rests his head on his mother's lap, outside a health post in the town of Chokwe in Mozambique.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, 25 April 2005 – Today, five years after the first Africa Malaria Day, the disease is still Africa’s biggest killer of children. Ninety per cent of all malaria cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 3,000 children die from malaria every day.

In recognition of the work being done and the work still to do, players in the fight against malaria are coming together on Africa Malaria Day 2005 to recognize the importance of partnership, under the theme ‘Unite Against Malaria’.

The Day’s official events are taking place in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Zambia has seen great progress in combating malaria. Dignitaries, including the WHO Regional Director for Africa and Roll Back Malaria Executive Secretary, Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, and the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency L. P. Mwanawasa, are joining community leaders, entertainers, members of the public and country representatives for a day of reflection, advocacy and mobilization around malaria.

Two major malaria-awareness events – the 135-kilometre Bicycle Race Against Malaria and the Drive Against Malaria – are also concluding in Lusaka on Africa Malaria Day 2005. The Nairobi-Lusaka Drive is the most recent leg of a journey which began in 1988 after David Robertson, creator of the event, came down with malaria.  Since then he has visited 26 African countries in his Land Rover, delivering mosquito nets and raising awareness about the disease.

© UNICEF/HQ00-0159/Pirozzi
A family sits on a bed with a mosquito net behind them, in the town of Chokwe, Mozambique. Proper use of bed nets impregnated with insecticide can reduce malaria deaths by up to 50 per cent.

Zambia’s success results largely from the distribution of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs). The country has exceeded its target of providing malaria prevention for 60 per cent of children under five by this year. ITNs are considered one of the best means of protection against the mosquito-borne disease. Regular use can reduce deaths from malaria by 50 per cent, yet fewer than 5 per cent of African children sleep under one. 

Even more useful are the long lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets (LLINs).  These are now being produced locally in Tanzania after a group of partners introduced the correct manufacturing technology. Production is set to increase from 1 to 7 million by the end of this year.

“The overall push in getting long lasting insecticide treated bed nets, especially into Africa, is on a take-off,” says Steve Jarrett, UNICEF Deputy Director of Supply. “The capacities of the industry are going to be increased significantly by the end of this year, so we can look forward next year to almost 30 million long lasting bed nets being available.”

Malaria need not be fatal.  If prevention fails, the illness can be treated. However, the most effective treatments include Artemisinin-containing combination therapies (ACTs) which – at prices of $1-$2 per dose - are ten times more expensive than traditional anti-malarials.

UNICEF is working to increase the supply of safe, effective and affordable ACTs, spending $1.6 million last year for this purpose. But the prices of drugs is only one of the challenges faced by UNICEF and partners in the fight against malaria. UNICEF Senior Advisor on Malaria Mark Young says a major hurdle is the weak health service infrastructure in many African countries.

“They aren’t generally equipped to manage a national malaria control programme, so UNICEF is helping to build capacity at all levels from government and ministries of health to the community level.”

© UNICEF/HQ02-0529/Vitale
In Malawi, a boy ill with malaria sleeps while being fed intravenously, in the emergency room at the Mchinji District Hospital.

Roll Back Malaria

In 1988, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership was launched by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Fund and the World Bank.  The Partnership provides a forum for the governments of countries where malaria is a significant public health issue to unite with other interested parties around the goal of halving the number of deaths of malaria by 2010.

Abuja Declaration

The historic Abuja declaration which commits governments to the 2010 goal was signed in Nigeria on 25 April 2000.  The declaration also included interim targets for 2005 which Mark Young fears most countries will fail to meet.

“There are a few countries who will meet this year’s Abuja targets,” he explains, “but the vast majority will not. I think we’re going to see a lot meeting it within the next few years when you look at the progress being made so far.”

A total of 44 African countries were represented at Abuja. The Abuja declaration designated 25 April as Africa Malaria Day, to be observed annually.




25 April 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on advances against malaria in Africa.

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20 April 2005:
Activist David Robertson tells of his drive across Africa raising awareness about malaria and delivering mosquito nets.

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