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UNICEF report shows gains made in reducing the burden of malaria

© UNICEF/ HQ05-0758/Bagla
A child sleeps under an insecticide-treated bednet in the Nicobar Islands region of India. UNICEF’s latest malaria report shows a rapid increase in the global supply of bednets from 2004 to 2006.

By Elizabeth Kiem

NEW YORK, USA, 16 October 2007 – The fight against malaria has made significant global headway, particularly in the areas of insecticide-treated net dissemination and international funding.

A new report, ‘Malaria and Children’, shows a rapid increase in the supply of bednets from 2004 to 2006, with annual production more than doubling from 30 million to 63 million. UNICEF alone procured 20 times more nets for distribution in 2006 than in 2000. (Sleeping under the nets, which repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes, can reduce overall child mortality by 20 per cent.)

Just as significantly, the report finds that national health programmes in malaria-endemic countries have benefited from a tenfold increase in international funding in the last decade.

The report was prepared by UNICEF on behalf of Roll Back Malaria, the partnership launched in 1998 to coordinate global efforts in fighting the deadly disease.

© UNICEF/ HQ06-2771/Brioni
A mother in Cote D’Ivoire with her newborn who has malaria. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 34 per cent of children with fever receive antimalarial medicines, but few countries have increased coverage since 2000.

Sub-Saharan Africa rises to challenge

The most dramatic progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest-hit by the disease. Approximately 800,000 children under the age of five – one-fifth of all under-five deaths – die of malaria every year in the region.

But these countries are fighting back by expanding the use of insecticide-treated bednets. Sixteen of 20 sub-Saharan countries report that the number of children using the nets has tripled since 2000.

“Controlling malaria is vital to improving child health and economic development in affected countries,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “Studies show that malaria disproportionately affects the poorest people in these countries, and so contributes to their further impoverishment.” 

© UNICEF/ HQ95-1050/Pirozzi
Mother and child at a health clinic in northern Somalia. Major funding initiatives are now providing support for countries such as Somalia to purchase more effective antimalarial medicines.

Expanded use of advanced treatment

Another advance in recent years is the adoption of advanced therapies for the disease by most sub-Saharan governments. Since 2003, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have become the norm for use in national health programmes, according to the UNICEF report.

“Still, it’s a minority of children that get access to the best types of antimalarials,” said UNICEF Chief of Health Peter Salama. “But with the strong backing of some of the international donors and the price of ACTs starting to be reduced, I think governments are becoming more confident now that this will be a sustainable strategy for antimalaria treatment in the future.”

Mr. Salama added that the worldwide supply of bednets and antimalarials has increased since the data collection for the report, making for an even more optimistic prognosis.

“This is really a scale of activities that’s outpacing even our ability to measure it,” he said.




15 October 2007:
UNICEF Chief of Health Peter Salama discusses progress in the Roll Back Malaria initiative.
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‘Malaria and Children’

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