|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Report of Roll Back Malaria Partnership,
‘A Decade of Partnership and Results’
Remarkable but fragile gains had been made in the fight against malaria over in last decade, making it critical to close funding gaps, scale up the use of effective interventions, combat drug and insecticide resistance, while supporting research and development to ensure that new ambitious targets would be met, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Speaking during the launch of “A Decade of Partnership and Results”, a report released by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the Secretary-General recalled that in the late 1990s, malaria had been the top cause of child mortality in Africa, yet few had thought to change the status quo. Piecemeal efforts had led to piecemeal results, he added. Ten years on, however, multi-stakeholder efforts under the Partnership had brought cohesion to malaria control, saving the lives of 1 million children in sub-Saharan Africa and changing the thinking about the disease.
Mr. Ban said today he was pleased to confirm that 10 endemic countries had met universal bed nets coverage targets and achieved better control through indoor spraying, which alone had reduced child mortality by an estimated 20 per cent. “This shows what can be achieved when all members of the international community join forces and align their efforts with those of developing countries,” he said. However, the work was nowhere near finished, he cautioned, saying that gains must be expanded to prevent resurgence. That was why the updatedobjectives and targets were even more ambitious: near-zero malaria deaths by 2015 and elimination of the disease in 10 additional countries.
All sectors would have a role to play, including Governments, international organizations, researchers, health professionals, philanthropists and ordinary individuals, Mr. Ban continued. “Investing in malaria control is an investment in people, economies and nations,” he stressed, expressing his wish to see efforts continue through 2015 and beyond.
Accompanying the Secretary-General were Awa-Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Ms. Coll-Seck, presenting the report’s findings, recalled that global malaria deaths had dropped by an estimated 38 per cent between 2000 and 2010, with 43 countries — all in Africa — cutting malaria cases or deaths by 50 per cent or more and reversing the trend of the previous decade. An estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five years had been saved, she noted.
Ms. Coll-Seck went on to say that 400 million insecticide-treated nets had been distributed by 2010, with 290 million delivered since 2008, enough to cover nearly 80 per cent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa. International funding had jumped from just $100 million in 2003 to $1.5 billion annually in 2010, a 15-fold increase. The majority of that gain had come from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Malaria Initiative of the President of the United States, the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, UNITAID and bilateral donors.
Ms. Gupta underlined the importance of building on the strong foundation already laid, pointing out that the malaria-control community had led the way to reaching the world’s poorest, while equitable strategies like net distribution had protected entire communities. “We know what we need to do,” she said, emphasizing that the malaria-related death of a child every 45 seconds was unacceptable.
She called for the continued integration of malaria interventions with those in support of maternal and child health, in addition to the delivery of diagnostic testing and treatment, and support for health workers by equipping them with effective, affordable medicines. Doing that right would also ensure progress towards realizing Millennium Development Goal 6 (combating HIV/AIDS), she said, adding that the future held great promise, and stressing the need to redouble political and financial commitments to combat malaria.
Responding to questions, Mr. Ban emphasized that partnership and political leadership were key to realizing the global health agenda. “We aim for zero malaria deaths,” he said, recalling his engagement with world leaders at a summit in Japan, where he had appealed for $1 billion for bed nets. The Secretary-General added that his wife had joined the “Bed Nets for Africa” campaign last month. “We have to save our children from unnecessary death,” he stressed, describing malaria as treatable and preventable, and pointing out that a single bed net saved the lives of five children.
Asked why the number of deaths was not lower if bed nets were all that was needed, Ms. Coll-Seck clarified that, in fact, $5 billion to $6 billion in support was needed. National health systems were weak and the implementation of interventions was often a problem due to instability. However, Rwanda, Zambia and Ethiopia had seen tremendous changes because they had achieved universal coverage.
Questioned as to how realistic the zero-deaths target was given such constraints, Ms. Coll-Seck replied that in the past, people had denied the possibility of universal coverage, but today many countries had achieved it. “We like ambitious goals,” she said, stressing the importance of pushing people to higher standards. Some countries would achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but others would not, she noted, adding that no effort could be mobilized without a target.
To a question about linking anti-malaria efforts with those aimed at combating dengue fever in Pakistan and India, Ms. Coll-Seck replied that the Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s work in those countries was already linked to anti-dengue efforts.
As for whether the Secretary-General would request more resources, Mr. Ban said: “We’ll have to discuss this matter,” adding that when necessary, he would use all possible opportunities to raise awareness. A high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases would be held next week, as would another event — “Every Woman, Every Child” — aimed at raising awareness of women’s and children’s health.
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