September 14, 2010

Global Fight Against Malaria Gaining Ground

A report said Tuesday that the global fight against malaria is saving more and more lives, but progress remains fragile and more money is needed.

According to the study published by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and preventive malaria treatment during pregnancy have saved the lives of about 750,000 children in 34 African countries over the last 10 years.

Most of the lives have been saved since 2005 when the malaria fight was awarded a big chunk of cash.

Researchers from Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative said that another three million lives could be saved by 2015 if there is a continuing effort to increase investment to tackle the disease around the world.

Malaria kills over 850,000 people every year, and most of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Malaria is contracted when mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Plasmodium bite people.

The disease causes fever and vomiting and can quickly become life threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.

The parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medications in many parts of the world and it has been over a decade since a new class of malaria drugs was widely used.

The disease is particularly lethal to pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 10,000 of them die every day because of complications like anemia.

"This report demonstrates the critical importance of malaria control efforts to reaching the health-related (United Nations) Millennium Development Goals by 2015," WHO Global Malaria Program director Robert Newman said in a statement.

"Without continued investment in malaria, reaching the MDG for child survival is unlikely to be reached in Africa."

U.N. member states launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 with the goal of halving poverty in the world from 1990 levels by 2015.

Development aid has fallen and none of the goals like cutting child mortality rates by two-thirds, halving the number of people in absolute poverty and reducing HIV/AIDS are on target to be reached.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found Monday that over $100 billion was needed over the next five years in order to reach the MDGs.

"While we've made great progress, much work remains," US global malaria coordinator Tim Ziemer, a retired rear admiral, told AFP News.

"To reach the Millennium Development Goals, we must accelerate our efforts to expand not only malaria prevention and treatment, but also a broad range of community-based health services."

World leaders are planning to meet at the U.N. headquarters on September 21-23 to review the eight MDGs.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will hold its third fundraising campaign in November, at which time governments will announce how much financial support it will give.


Image Caption: Anopheles albimanus  mosquito feeding on a human arm. This mosquito is a vector of malaria and mosquito control is a very effective way of reducing the incidence of malaria. Credit: CDC / James Gathany


On the Net: