|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference for World Malaria Day
Every minute one child dies from malaria and every year 216 million people are newly affected with the preventable disease, and an increase in collaboration and partnerships, as well as additional funding, was needed to boost efforts to fight the disease, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press conference today.
In the lead up to World Malaria Day — observed 25 April, and this year under the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria” — officials and specialists in the field of malaria prevention met with reporters to discuss progress made and new ways to combat the disease. Leading the conversation was the Special Representative for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium. She was jointed by Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, Thomas Teuscher, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and Jeffery Sachs, Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.
“Malaria control is one of the key Millennium Development Goals. It affects millions of people around the globe. It devastates lives and affects communities and their economies,” said Princess Astrid, who during her five years as Special Representative for the Roll Bank Malaria Partnership has travelled extensively to malaria-stricken regions.
“Every time I meet patients, my main message is always that malaria is preventable and treatable,” she added. “But, prevention and treatment require enormous efforts and funding.”
Princess Astrid said the two biggest challenges were to find funding of up to $3.2 billion through 2015 to continue the fight in Africa, where 90 per cent of malaria cases occur; and there is growing resistance to anti-malaria drugs in South East Asia. “To overcome these challenges, we must intensify our joint and coordinated efforts,” she said, stressing that when the world community fought malaria it also tackled poverty and offered people a better life.
Further, she said, it required the coordinated efforts and attention of decision-makers at the international, national, and local level and must be approached from a holistic angle combining health care, education, the environment and political decision making. Stronger partnerships between international organizations, Governments, local authorities, researchers, health workers and donors from the private sector were also needed.
Mr. Chambers told correspondents that it was important for donor countries to come together in more of a collaborative approach, instead of each making a decision on their own. He said he hoped new donors would come into the scene to create a community of interest for all countries, not just the ones who are affected. He was also looking towards new technologies and new tools, which would help alleviate the problem of the building up of resistance to insecticides on nets.
Progress was possible because malaria was entirely preventable and treatable, he said. Just in the last decade, malaria mortality rates worldwide had fallen by more than a quarter. Contributing to that decrease in deaths was the increased distribution and use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets and expanded indoor spraying. The number of bed nets distributed to malaria-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa had increased from 88.5 million in 2009 to 145 million in 2012. An estimated 50 per cent of households in sub-Saharan Africa now have at least one bed net.
“There’s a real desire in the developing world to become more self-sufficient and not to have to rely on the rest of the world,” he said. “Several years ago the African leaders formed an African Leaders Malaria Alliance, and that alliance now has 43 members of leaders of African countries which are now beginning to look at what’s going on in their neighbouring countries.”
Mr. Teuscher added that “World Malaria Day is a day when we try to take stock. We have invested over the last 10 years about $8 billion, we have saved more than a million lives, and in some areas cases have dropped by 50 percent.”
Despite the gains, Malaria still remains a major global health problem affecting 99 countries globally and killing over 650,000 people every year, mainly children under five in sub-Saharan Africa, he said. Increased investment was needed to develop new and better drugs and to scale up diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance. That’s why it was important to address the $3.2 billion dollar gap by 2015 to ensure that countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Nigeria have the means to reach universal coverage and then to sustain it, so that elimination becomes a feasible ambition.
Mr. Sachs told reporters that a tremendous, focused, and science based effort allowed an extremely difficult challenge like malaria to show historic success over the last decade.
“There are so many sceptics that things can be done in general, in almost anything we try to do in the world,” he added. “This is an area where the sceptics had been shown wrong. When you invest in a science-based malaria control effort, you can do historic things.”
Although it was a phenomenal break though, he warned “if we don’t continue to fight, there will be a rebound.” He said it was vital to reach the near-zero deaths from malaria goal in the next few years, but that would not be accomplished unless funds were raised and bed nets, medicine, diagnostic tests, and other technologies were deployed to the thousands of communities in endemic regions worldwide.
“Bed nets can get you a certain part of the way, medicines can get you a certain part of the way, but unless there is a system in place, you can’t close the deal. I think the need to reinvigorate funding from the global fund this year is urgent. Without that, I think we won’t make it,” he said.
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