New UN report spotlights successes in fighting malaria

Nurse performs diagnostic test for malaria

18 September 2008 – Greater access to bed nets and medicines has helped bring sharp progress in tackling malaria, a disease that claims 1 million lives every year, according to a report released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

“Progress in malaria control has accelerated dramatically since 2006, especially in the wake of the UN Secretary-General’s call for universal malaria control coverage by the end of 2010,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said on the report’s release.

The “WHO’s World Malaria Report 2008,” which covers the period between 2004 and 2006, found that during that period the amount of access to malaria control interventions, especially bed nets in Africa, skyrocketed.

The percentage of children protected by insecticide-treated nets climbed from 3 per cent in 2001 to 23 per cent in 2006 in 18 African countries. The procurement of anti-malarial medicines has also surged, while about 100 million people worldwide are now protected by indoor spraying of insecticide.

The WHO report noted that malaria deaths have fallen in several countries, including Cambodia and Thailand, with a few in Africa – Eritrea, Rwanda and São Tomé and Príncipe – slashing them by half.

“We know that malaria control interventions work and that we can make rapid progress towards ending malaria deaths,” said Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria. “Now is the time to expand those results to all of Africa and the rest of the world.”

Small children remain most likely by far to die of the disease – about 3,000 children every day – and the global malaria burden is still enormous, especially in Africa.

Access to WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) – whose production surged from 4 million treatment doses in 2004 to over 100 million in 2006 – is only reaching 3 per cent of needy children in Africa. Also, some 650 million children on that continent are still not protected by bed nets.

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