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Roll Back Malaria partnership launches Africa Update at UNICEF House event

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0624/Markisz
UN Deputy Secretary-General Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro opens the discussion at a UNICEF House rountdtable on malaria control in Africa, hosted by UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria partnership.

By Nina Martinek

NEW YORK, USA, 19 April 2010 – UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria partnership today launched the World Malaria Day 2010 Africa Update, a report highlighting progress towards curbing the deadly mosquito-borne disease in Africa.

Efforts to fight malaria on the continent are accelerating, the report says, but more work and funding are needed.

The launch event, held at UNICEF headquarters, began with introductory remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro. “I am confident that we'll be able to eradicate malaria, but we must not be complacent in our efforts,” she said.

An unacceptable burden

Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria. In Africa, the disease causes about one in six childhood deaths, taking the lives of more than 750,000 children a year and placing an unacceptable burden on health and economic development.

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HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Roll Back Malaria Special Representative, speaks at the Africa update event.

Malaria is so deadly it can kill within hours. But it is curable – and preventable, through the consistent use of bed nets.
“We are at a critical juncture in the fight against malaria,” said Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, Roll Back Malaria Special Representative. “We must examine the progress and achievements, and use this evidence to gain malaria control and universal coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets.”

Health and development goals

Panellists at today’s event included representatives from UNICEF; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the USAID-US President’s Malaria Initiative; the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Malaria Programme; and the World Bank Booster Programme for Malaria.

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Panellists discussing malaria control in Africa include representatives of the US President's Malaria Initiative, the World Bank Booster Programme for Malaria, UNICEF, the World Health Organization Global Malaria Programme and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The participants discussed what needs to be done to achieve the malaria-prevention targets outlined by the Roll Back Malaria partnership and specified in the Millennium Development Goals.

Achieving and sustaining malaria control is central to meeting many of the MDGs in the worst-affected countries across Africa. One of the eight MDGs specifically relates to malaria, while six of the goals can only be reached with effective malaria control in place.

Funding challenges

Malaria control interventions have scaled up in recent years, and global funding increased to $1.7 billion in 2009. Contributions come from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, along with more recent commitments from the World Bank, the US President’s Malaria Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among other bilateral donors.

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UN Secretary General Special Envoy on Malaria Ray Chambers makes closing remarks at UNICEF- and Roll Back Malaria-hosted event.

However, available funds are still far short of the estimated $6 billion needed worldwide for effective malaria control in 2010.

Since 2000, bed net coverage has increased ten-fold in 11 African countries. Nine others have achieved five-fold increases. And innovative programmes are under way. Zambia and Senegal, for example, recently adopted routine antenatal care visits providing appropriate anti-malarial drugs to mothers – another preventive measure to curb the spread of disease.

Coverage in other countries remains low. In Nigeria, only 8 per cent of households own bed nets, though the government plans to distribute some 60 million nets by the end of 2010 in an unprecedented distribution effort to achieve universal coverage.

Prevention and treatment

Malaria is controlled in two ways: by preventing the infection and by promptly treating it when it does occur.

Regular use of treated bed nets continues to be a highly effective prevention tool, reducing overall child mortality by as much as 20 per cent. But correct diagnosis and treatment of malaria necessitates decent, accessible health systems.

As UNICEF Director of Programmes Dr. Nicholas Alipui put at today’s event: “Curative services require stronger and more robust heath systems. We need to complement what we are doing with a massive information campaign to raise health literacy in communities and within households.”

WHO recently revaluated the diagnostic guidelines for malaria to allow for more accurate diagnosis of infection.

Looming threat

Even with better health services, drug resistance is a possible threat to the control of malaria.

“Malaria is an ancient parasite that has outwitted us before, and we need to stay a step ahead and invest in drugs of tomorrow,” said Dr. Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “We need to invest in systems to prepare for drug resistance. Investing in routine efficacy testing is vital.”

In closing remarks, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Malaria, Ray Chambers, applauded the widespread and growing awareness of the need for malaria control. US President Obama will tweet about the disease on 23 April, World Malaria Day 2010, he said.



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