12 December 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference to Launch Latest World Health Organization Report on Malaria


While malaria mortality rates had declined by 45 per cent globally and 49 per cent in Africa between 2000 and 2012, funding was still far short of the need to fully scale up life-saving interventions, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said at Headquarters today.


“I don’t want people to think it’s time to pull away these resources and spend them on something else,” Robert Newman, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme said at a press conference to launch “World Malaria Report 2013”.  The study showed that the rate for children under the age of five years had declined 51 per cent globally and 54 per cent in Africa, he added.


Those numbers translated into 3.3 million people saved over 12 years, with 90 per cent of those under-five children, he continued.  However, the disease still killed 627,000 people annually.  With $5 bed nets, 50-cent diagnostic tests and $1 anti-malaria treatment available, “there is no reason in 2013 for anybody to die from this disease”, he emphasized.  Attributing the sharp declines in malaria mortality to increased financing, he said external financing now stood at $2 billion a year, with $500 million in additional financing coming from malaria-endemic countries themselves.  But, that was only about half of the $5.1 billion needed, he stressed.


Accompanying Dr. Newman was Ray Chambers, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria and for the Financing of the Health-related Millennium Development Goals.  He recalled that a decade ago, nearly 1 million children under the age of five had been dying from malaria each year.  The number had fallen to fewer than 500,000 today, a great testament to those who worked together in fighting malaria.


He went on to say that while in Africa, he not only had seen death, but had watched paediatric wards overflow with two children to a bed.  Now beds were empty and other illnesses could be addressed.  “It’s a great feeling of satisfaction,” he said.  Malaria-endemic African countries and their leaders had stepped up considerably during the recent replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, he said, noting that the replenishment had led to an order of 200 million mosquito nets, to be delivered over the next two years.


Asked about the World Health Assembly target of a 75 per cent reduction in the malaria mortality rate by 2015, Dr. Newman said that on the current pace, the rate for children under five would fall by 63 per cent.  The gap could be closed through universal access to existing tools such as bed nets, indoor residual spray, diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapy.


Mr. Chambers stressed the need to address supply-chain and other logistical challenges in such countries as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, which together had accounted for 41 per cent of malaria deaths in 2012.  Nigeria’s loosely knit federal system created logistical problems because its 36 states executed plans in different ways.


Asked about corporate profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Chambers said Novartis had produced a malaria medicine at a loss and was partnering with other companies to develop a one-dose, one-day drug, which would reduce the firm’s revenues.


In response to a question about cultural resistance to using mosquito nets, Dr. Newman said culture was not a limiting factor because data showed that 86 per cent of the nets delivered had been used to their full capacity.  On the multisector approach, he emphasized that a State could become the victim of its own success, recalling that malaria had come roaring back in Sri Lanka after resources had been pulled away.  The multisector approach, which highlighted the links between health and development, could mitigate such risks, he added.


Responding to a question about the two top mosquito net producers suspected of paying bribes to health officials in Cambodia, both guest speakers said that other manufacturers were doubling their efforts to meet demand.  Mr. Chambers said the incident underlined the need to find more suppliers.  One big manufacturer in the United Republic of Tanzania was gaining a larger market share, but there was a need to establish five or six local manufactures in Africa.


On the situation in the Philippines after Typhoon Haidan, Dr. Newman said WHO could contribute to the humanitarian response by distributing anti-malaria toolkits, while Mr. Chambers said social media had drawn enormous financial contributions.


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For information media • not an official record