‘Malaria is an Ancient Enemy, Fight against It Will Be Long, but We Are on Road to Success,’ Deputy Secretary-General Tells African Leaders Malaria Alliance

27 July 2010

‘Malaria is an Ancient Enemy, Fight against It Will Be Long, but We Are on Road to Success,’ Deputy Secretary-General Tells African Leaders Malaria Alliance

27 July 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘Malaria is an Ancient Enemy, Fight against It Will Be Long, but We Are on Road

to Success,’ Deputy Secretary-General Tells African Leaders Malaria Alliance

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, in Kampala, Uganda, on 26 July:

In April 2008, the Secretary-General set a goal of providing universal access to malaria control interventions by the end of this year.  That target is within reach.  I would like to take a moment to thank President [Jakaya Mrisho] Kikwete in particular for his leadership of ALMA (African Leaders Malaria Alliance) and his commitment to ensure the future of Africa's children by conquering malaria.

The United Nations is your partner on this path.  The fight against malaria is an integral element of the Secretary-General’s Joint Action Plan for women’s and children’s health, which will be finalized for the Millennium Development Goals summit in September.

The Alliance has already made significant headway on some of the key issues related to malaria control.  You have ensured pooled procurement of goods and services, and the elimination of taxes and tariffs on these life-saving products.  Now, Excellencies, you have an unprecedented opportunity to build on this progress. 

We used to say that a child died from malaria every 30 seconds.  Recently, that statistic has been revised to one child every 45 seconds.  It is still tragically and unacceptably high.  But it represents a large step forward, unimaginable only a decade ago.

Your commitment to roll back malaria in Abuja in 2000 put malaria back on the agenda as a public health emergency in Africa.  The new investments you triggered are now paying off.  The use of insecticide-treated bed nets is widespread.  Indoor spraying reached nearly 60 million people in 2008.  Every malaria-endemic country in Africa has adopted artemisinin-containing combination therapy.

The number of malaria cases has fallen by more than 50 per cent in nine African countries over the past decade.  A recent analysis of malaria scale-up in 35 African countries revealed that more than 680,000 lives had been saved between 2000 and 2009, most of them since 2006.  Investment in malaria control is helping us to reach not only Millennium Development Goal 6, but also Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health.

However, these results remain fragile, and tremendous challenges remain.  Let me draw your attention to three in particular.  First, we need to finish the job of scaling up life-saving measures.  Eighty-five per cent of the world's malaria cases and 90 per cent of malaria-related deaths still occur here on our continent in Africa.  

Second, we are seeing the emergence of mosquitoes that are resistant to some of the insecticides used on mosquito nets and for indoor spraying.  We need to train more experts to monitor and analyse this worrying situation.  Third, if drug resistance develops and spreads to Africa, we could face a public health catastrophe.  African countries must take urgent steps to ensure that medicines for malaria are marketed, sold and used properly.

Alongside these threats are tremendous new opportunities.  Diagnostic testing, in particular, strengthens surveillance and helps us to target our efforts more effectively.  With the latest technology, we can now test cheaply and accurately in the most remote communities.  We can monitor impact, identify malaria “hotspots,” and respond to malaria outbreaks.  If we do not know where the confirmed malaria cases actually are, we are proceeding without focus. 

Malaria is an ancient enemy.  The fight against it will be long.  But we are on the road to success.  With perseverance, we will win.  Along the way, there will be hundreds of thousands, eventually millions, of individual victories — each time we save a life that would have been lost to malaria.

The most important factor rests with you — the leaders in this room.  We have just heard from the honourable Minister from Zambia that if leaders move, we can all move together.  That factor is political commitment.  If you continue to see malaria control as an integral part of reaching the Millennium Development Goals, of building strong health systems, of improving your people’s well-being, then the success we have seen to date will continue, and grow.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.