A multinational coalition is seeing the first positive results from its efforts to control malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, but the total impact of insecticide-treated nets, new drugs and better training for health workers is still unknown, the authors of a new report said Tuesday.
While international support from governments and non-profit agencies
like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made widespread
distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and malaria medicine
possible, gathering health statistics in the African countries where
the disease kills 800 000 children under the age of 5 each year is slow
and difficult, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said during a
UNICEF prepared the report on behalf of the Roll Back Malaria
Partnership, which has an overall goal of cutting cases of the
mosquito-borne disease in half by 2010.
The report was released as the Gates Foundation convened a malaria
forum in Seattle.
No comprehensive endorsement
Veneman said deaths in children under five in sub-Saharan Africa has
dropped below 10 million a year, but some of this progress results from
efforts to fight measles.
A few statistics were shared in the teleconference, but none gave
what would be considered a comprehensive endorsement of the program.
In Ethiopia, people infected with malaria died between 25 percent
and 30 percent of the time in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, that number has
dropped to 10 percent, according to Dr Tedros Adhanon Ghebreysus,
Ethiopias minister of health.
In 18 months, Ethiopia has reached the goals the coalition set for
2010, said Dr Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive director of Roll Back
Malaria, who was previously the minister of health in Senegal. She said
enough money and political will needs to be found to get the same
results in every sub-Saharan African country.
"We need to have more progress if we want to reach our target in
2010," Coll-Seck said. "We have too many people dying until now from
malaria and this is unacceptable."
In Zanzibar, where 230 000 insecticide nets have been distributed,
the number of cases of malaria on the island of Pemba have decreased
from 12 531 in 2005 to 1 570 in 2006, said Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, of the
US President's Malaria Initiative.
More nets in households
Sixteen of 20 African countries affected by malaria report a major
increase in the number of households that now have insecticide nets
over their beds, with 12 percent of households across the region now
owning at least one insecticide-treated net. Some countries have
achieved a distribution rate close to 50 percent.
Treatment has also improved, with more children being given the
latest anti-malaria drugs and more pregnant women getting preventative
Fewer children overall, however, are getting any drugs to treat
malaria -from 41 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2005. The report
attributes that to a decrease in the number of children being given an
old drug that is now considered ineffective.
UNICEF said access to the new drugs, which cost 10 times more than
the old ones, has increased since 2005.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership was launched in 1998 by the World
Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United
Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. – (Sapa-AP)