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Ethiopia can beat its biggest killer with historic push - UNICEF

ADDIS ABABA, 28 September 2006 - For the first time in history, Ethiopia has a chance of beating its biggest killer - malaria, UNICEF Ethiopia country representative, Bjorn Ljungqvist, said today.

“We now have an historic opportunity to get on top of malaria.  We can make this killer disease as manageable as measles and other childhood conditions in the West,” said Ljungqvist.

“This is an opportunity that we must not miss.”

He spoke as the Ethiopian government launched Africa’s biggest ever push against the disease which infects nine million Ethiopians a year and can kill more than 100,000 Ethiopians – many of them young children - in a matter of months during an epidemic.

It is the unprecedented scale of the multi-million-dollar operation that is giving Ethiopia its once-in-a-lifetime chance, said Ljungqvist.

The Ethiopian government, supported by several development organizations, is launching an overwhelming three-pronged attack on malaria.

• Before 2004, there were only 1.8 million insecticide treated malaria nets in the country.  By the end of this year, the Ethiopian government, aided by UNICEF and partners, will have distributed eight million nets in the country.  By 2008, there will be 20 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets – enough to protect ten million households or 50 million Ethiopians (100 per cent of the population that is exposed to malaria). This operation is costing more than US$120 million over three years.

• In recent years, Ethiopia relied on Fansidar to treat the bulk of its malaria cases – a drug with an average failure rate of 36 per cent.  At the peak of this year’s malaria transmission season (Oct-Nov 2006), almost all cases will be treated by the latest anti-malaria drug Coartem – with a 99 per cent success rate.  The roll-out of this drug is costing US$16 million this year alone.

• In past years, Ethiopian health posts faced long delays while they sent samples from patients to be scanned for malaria at scattered laboratories.  This year, health posts are being supplied with cheap Rapid Diagnostic Test kits that can flag up a case of serious malaria on the spot in a matter of minutes.  This operation is costing US$4.2 million in 2006.

“Ethiopia is managing to mount this level of response due to two main factors,” said Ljungqvist.  “There is the strong commitment of the government’s Ministry of Health. And there is the commitment of key funders like the Canadian International Development Agency, the World Bank, USAID, the Government of Japan, and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. At UNICEF we are proud to be a key player in this effort.”

But he warned key challenges lay ahead.  “We need to make sure that funders keep up their focus on malaria.

“We need continued support for the hard-to-fund parts of any malaria campaign – the monitoring & evaluation and the general management costs to run such a large operation.”

Contrary to one incorrect media report earlier this week, malaria control is rolling out across Ethiopia as planned, and efforts are in place to ensure that all supplies, including anti-malaria drugs, are utilized efficiently and correctly.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 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 further information, please contact:
Maurice J. Apted, Cluster Chief, Communication, Rights and Advocacy: Tel  +  (251-11) 551-51-55 or (251- 911) 121-33-08, mapted@unicef.org
Indrias Getachew, Media and External Relation Unit: Tel + (251-11) 551-51-55, (251-11) 544 43 64,
(251-91) 125-40-18, igetachew@unicef.org
Andrew Heavens, Emergency Communication Officer: Tel +  (251-11) 555-55, aheavens@unicef.org




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