|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON LAUNCH OF UNITED NATIONS-NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
‘NOTHING BUT NETS’ CAMPAIGN TO ERADICATE MALARIA
“It’s quite simple -- ten bucks, buy a net, save a life.”
That was the message David Stern, Commissioner of the United States National Basketball Association and a partner in a new United Nations-led global, grass-roots effort to prevent malaria in Africa through the free distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, said today during a Headquarters press conference.
Thomas Bickerton, Bishop of the United Methodist Church -- another of the more than 12 religious, civic and private-sector partners in the global initiative, agreed: “To think that we can, through a simple mosquito net, give every child in the world a chance to live the same long, sustained life that we anticipate for our own children is a very exciting possibility.”
Every $10 donated to the “Nothing but Nets” campaign, spearheaded and launched today at Headquarters by the United Nations Foundation, would purchase a bednet to help prevent the approximately 1 million deaths annually -- 800,000 of them children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa -- from malaria.
The campaign, launched two days before the United Nations would commemorate the first ever “World Malaria Day”, aimed to provide nets to 80 per cent of the people at risk by 2010, said Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Global production of mosquito nets jumped from 30 million nets in 2004 to 60 million in 2006, and would likely reach 110 million in 2008, Ms. Veneman said. Of the 250 million nets still needed to meet the campaign’s goal, 100 million had already been financed. Because the nets were effective for only three to five years, up to 80 million new ones must be purchased annually.
“The fact that we’ve seen this kind of huge scale-up in only a matter of a couple of years was really quite significant and it showed that with concerted effort you can make a difference,” Ms. Veneman said, stressing the need to sustain and fund the distribution of nets, new therapies to treat the disease and research to develop a vaccine. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a campaign partner, was contributing greatly to vaccine development.
To date, the campaign had raised almost $20 million, and with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) it had distributed 750,000 nets through the Measles Initiative, according to Elizabeth Gore, Executive Director of Alliances of the United Nations Foundation. By year’s end, more than 2 million nets would have been distributed.
Ms. Veneman said an estimated 350 million to 500 million people suffered annually from malaria, a major culprit of poverty. According to some estimates, malaria was responsible for slowing annual economic growth by as much as 1.3 per cent in Africa.
But African nations were tackling the killer disease head-on with bednet distribution and better health-care services, she said. In Ethiopia alone, more than 11 million mosquito nets were distributed in just two years. Since 2003, most African countries had implemented artimisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT, for malaria treatment as recommended by the WHO. ACT procurement had jumped from 3 million treatment doses in 2003 to more than 100 million in 2006.
Mr. Bickerton said his Church was considering a $100 million fundraising effort in the next several years to support malaria programmes in Africa and those of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Steven Culbertson, President of Youth Service America, also a campaign partner, said his organization had created a service-learning module around malaria that would be distributed to teachers in more than 100 countries to spread awareness about the disease, treatment and prevention.
During the press briefing, a correspondent asked about the campaign’s goals and UNICEF’s specific role. Ms. Veneman said the agency was looking at the malaria effort as part of an integrated approach to save children’s lives and that it was distributing bednets through its Measles Initiative. She stressed the importance of community-based approaches on the ground that combined measles immunization, bednets, vitamin A supplements, oral rehydration therapy and developing clean water solutions.
Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, said the campaign focused on widespread prevention of childhood deaths due to malaria, rather than eradication, which was still a long way off.
As to whether drug companies and private companies were doing enough to combat malaria, Mr. Wirth said the recent 20 per cent price cut for malaria drugs announced by pharmaceutical companies was indeed a step in the right direction. The fact that many critical private-sector players were participating in the campaign was a testament to their commitment.
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