17 October 2007

Malaria progress reported

A multinational coalition is seeing the first positive results from its efforts to control malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, say the authors of a new report.

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 teleconference.

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
A few statistics were shared in the teleconference, but none gave what would be considered a comprehensive endorsement of the program.

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.

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 medicine.

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)

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Malaria Centre

October 2007


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