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On Africa Malaria Day, UNICEF calls for increased availability of new drugs at affordable price

Intensified Effort from Pharmaceutical Firms and Donors Needed to Save Millions from Malaria

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 22 April 2004 -- Using its global supply network to play a lead role in the global fight to reduce malaria deaths, UNICEF today called on pharmaceutical firms and donor countries to get behind an initiative to introduce a life-saving new drug to hundreds of millions of people affected by the disease each year.

“Powerful new drugs can make the difference between life and death for the 300 million people afflicted by malaria every year,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, marking Africa Malaria Day on April 25.  “If the private and public sectors work together effectively, we can quickly reshape the marketplace for malaria drugs and take a great leap toward rolling back malaria.”

The main challenge of treating malaria is that chloroquine, the least expensive and most widely used anti-malarial drug, has lost its effectiveness in many parts of Africa. In recent years, a new, more expensive treatment has entered the market. This new treatment, called artemisinin-containing combination therapy (ACT), is recommended by WHO and UNICEF in areas where there is growing resistance to chloroquine.
Because ACTs are comparatively expensive and currently available only in limited quantities, UNICEF and partners are working with global manufacturers to expand the production of high-quality ACTs so that every child and community that needs these drugs can access them readily. UNICEF is also calling on donor nations to help malaria-endemic countries pay for the new drugs. A full course treatment of Coartem, the only co-formulated ACT at this time, costs $2.40 per person -- five to ten times more than chloroquine.

UNICEF has recently convened a series of meetings with pharmaceutical companies, along with its Roll Back Malaria partners and major donors, to help foster the market needed to bring ACTs to the millions of people in desperate need of them.

“We cannot allow people to die just because they are poor and can’t afford the best drugs available,” Bellamy said. “If we can ensure that countries in need have the funds needed to purchase the drugs in the long-term, the manufacturers will have the reliable market they need to produce more drugs.”

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is responsible for killing more than 1 million children a year – most under age five. Ninety percent of those deaths occur in Africa south of the Sahara. Malaria is the biggest killer of children in Africa. Of the tens of millions that do survive the disease, many suffer from physical and mental impairment.

In addition to pushing for increased drug availability, UNICEF is supporting malaria control programs in over 30 countries in Africa.  In addition to anti-malarial medicines, last year UNICEF procured almost 5 million mosquito nets, as well as insecticides to treat the nets, with a total value of about $17 million.  By preventing mosquito bites and killing the malaria-carrying mosquito, insecticide-treated bed nets can dramatically reduce malaria infection -- and deaths.

UNICEF also supports community education programs to improve local knowledge about malaria prevention and the proper use of treated bed nets. The programs also teach people how to recognize malaria symptoms and the importance of treating malaria promptly.  Both measures are critical to combating malaria, which strikes frequently throughout the year and can be mistaken for other illnesses.

*   *   *

Sunday will be the fourth commemoration of Africa Malaria Day since the Abuja Malaria Summit in April 2000. This year, UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria partners will be commemorating the day with a major media event including a Youssou N’Dour-led concert in Matam, Senegal – a region that has been seriously affected by malaria. UNICEF will be marking the day in all African countries where malaria is endemic.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership established in 1998, combines the efforts of WHO, UNICEF, The World Bank, UNDP and other partners in the fight against the disease.

NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: B-roll on Malaria is available.

For Additional information and materials visit the UNICEF site at www.unicef.org and the RBM website at www.rbm.who.int

For further information, please contact:

Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel: 212 326 7516, mjalloh@unicef.org

Erin Trowbridge, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel: 212 326 7172, etrowbridge@unicef.org

Margherita Amodeo, UNICEF Dakar,
Tel: 221 869 5842, Mobile 221 569 1926, mamodeo@unicef.org

Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva,
Tel: 44 21 909 5716, dpersonnaz@unicef.org

For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, 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.




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