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A deadly disease no more –
advances in malaria prevention and treatment

Malaria has lifelong effects through increased poverty
and impaired learning. It cuts attendance at schools
and workplaces. However, it is preventable and curable.
WHO/V. Buj

Although malaria continues to kill over 1 million people a year and is a leading cause of death among young African children, global awareness of this deadly scourge – as well as efforts to curb the spread of this preventable and treatable disease – remains low. In 2007, new evidence emerged that distribution of treated mosquito nets and new medicines will give momentum to the fight against malaria.

The Story

That mosquito nets can save lives is hardly news – but reports have emerged that this simple intervention could be a critical factor in the fight against malaria. Despite malaria’s high death toll and enormous cost, the response has drawn insufficient attention, especially as the disease is endemic in some regions while others are not directly affected by the scourge. Even if the deadly risks posed by the disease are well known, what may not be sufficiently recognized is that there are low-cost and effective ways of preventing and treating the disease. One of the key targets set by the international community as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), malaria eradication now appears within reach.

Malaria has serious economic impacts in Africa, slowing economic growth and development, and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. Malaria is truly a disease of poverty – afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas in poorly-constructed dwellings that offer few, if any, barriers against mosquitoes. There is increasing evidence that where they occur together, malaria and HIV infections interact.

Since malaria is both preventable and treatable, UN agencies leading the charge against malaria point out that the world community now has the tools and increased resources to control the scourge. For example, sleeping under insecticide treated nets (ITNs) can reduce overall child mortality by 20 per cent. A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on field observations in Zambia, Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda in late 2007 yielded new evidence that widespread distribution of treated mosquito nets and new medicines can result in a sharp reduction of malaria deaths. Another report indicated that 3.5 million lives could be spared and as much as $30 billion of annual economic output gained through a rapid scale-up of malaria prevention and treatment measures in the 30 hardest hit countries in Africa.

Bolstered by those findings, leaders in the fight against malaria announced an accelerated 36-month effort to scale-up malaria control across sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership have joined forces in developing an initiative for deploying the best practices in public health and the best ideas of the private sector in the fight against malaria. A pivotal moment is approaching when awareness and solutions may help wage a successful global campaign of eradication.

The Context


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Jessica Malter
Tel: +1 212 326 7412
Send an email

World Health Organization (WHO):
Valentina Buj, Tel: +41 22 791 507
Send an email

Office of the Special Envoy to the Secretary-General on Malaria:
Christina Barrineau
Send an email


Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Impact of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs) and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)
measured using surveillance data, in four African countries: Preliminary report based on four country visits

(31 January 2008)

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

The World Bank

Global Malaria Programme (GMP)

Rollback Malaria Partnership

UN News Service